inspiring women bonnie s. hardie homeless for two years

Being Homeless Is It Your Worst Nightmare?

Is the thought of being homeless your worst nightmare?  I know it’s mine.inspiring women bonnie s. hardie homeless for two years

Heck I can’t even entertain the idea of doing The Big Sleep Out.   Incidentally, a friend of mine did it last year and said that it was incredibly hard.   She also shared with me that they had it ‘easy’ with hot food before and after the event, a ground sheet and an insulating layer of plastic bubble wrap….

The image of homelessness conjures up an image and we often associate it with substance abuse or mental health issues.  But what if you became homeless through a perfect storm of circumstances?  You’d been in full time employment, been living a comfortable life and then it all changed.

My latest inspiring woman interview is with Bonnie S Hardie.   Bonnie is a bubbly, confident entrepreneur, supporting business owners, with her services as a Virtual Assistant and Social Media Expert.  Bonnie lives in Florida with her two gorgeous kittens.  I was speechless when I discovered she’d been homeless for nearly two years (2015-2017).    Her story of resilience and determination is simply inspiring.

What Were The Circumstances Leading To You Becoming Homeless?

Several things led up to my being homeless.  I sustained a severe knee injury at work. I was working in a restaurant and so had to give up my job.    Unfortunately the knee injury had revealed more extensive problems with my knees. While I was cleared to go back to work after the injury I struggled to find a job.

I applied for benefits but it’s an extremely long and arduous process in the US.  I had no choice but to give up my accommodation, as I could no longer pay the rent.

A neighbour and I made an agreement.  I would move in with her and help her with her mother who had Alzheimer’s.  In return for helping her mother at night, when my neighbour worked I would live rent-free.    Sadly only about three weeks into the arrangement her mother passed away.

We then made a new agreement that I would pay one week’s rent and she would pay the next week.    This only lasted about a month before she decided to move to another state.   I was unable to pay for the full amount of the rent on my own after this.


homeless living in a tentWhy Didn’t You Consider Yourself Homeless When You Lived In A Tent?

I didn’t consider myself “homeless” because I had a roof over my head and a bed to sleep on.  I was living in a tent and sleeping on an Air Mattress. Instead I looked at it as being on an extended camping trip.  Albeit without some of the comforts that we often take for granted on camping holidays.

What Was The Worst Thing About Being Homeless?

Having to deal with possums, raccoons and snakes coming up to my tent at night to chew on it!

Being regularly asked if I had any drugs or alcohol (I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs).

Other people. Those who judged me, showed a complete lack of respect and were rude, simply because of the way they viewed someone who was homeless.

The most frightening aspect was not having anyone to trust.

What Were Your Positive Takeaways From Being Homeless

It was down to me I only had myself to rely on.

I am a very resilient person so I dug deep and this helped me to stay strong.   I managed to detach myself from the situation, to appreciate that it was happening for me and not to me.

Luckily I had neither animals nor children, so with no dependents it was easier.   I really learned to appreciate what I did have.  It was a great opportunity to learn a lot about myself during this time.

I met a lot of different people who were also homeless.  They all had fascinating stories about how they’d become homeless.

Very often other homeless people were accommodating than non-homeless people.    They were not judgmental.


If People You Knew Found Out You Were Homeless How Did They React?

I did not tell too many people about my situation because I was embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I was homeless.

Those I did tell were people at places where I hung out during the day (Library, Grocery Store, Coffee Shops) and they were generally nice.

It certainly helped that I made an extreme effort to stay clean (showering every day at a campsite). I was always polite to everyone I met and this meant others responded to me more positively.


What Impact Has Being Homeless Had On You As A Person?

I am more empathetic and sympathetic towards other people.

Before I was homeless, I got to know several homeless people.  They would come in to the restaurant where I worked.  I was always nice to them and treated them with respect. But being homeless has meant that I’m even more empathetic and sympathetic towards others.

It’s also fair to say that I am much more appreciative of what I have now.


It Is Easy To Judge People In A Negative Way Who Are Homeless How Did You Cope With That?

There were always a few “Negative Nellie’s”!   Some people would insinuate that I was: lazy, a scammer, a bum and so on.  So I just did my best to ignore them.

I am the only person who knows everything about what happened during the 2 years that I was homeless. I tried my best to do what I could with what I had.

Has Your Attitude Towards Homeless People Changed?

I was always empathetic to homeless people, even before it happened to me.

How can you judge someone when you don’t know his or her circumstances?  You don’t know the story of why they became homeless.

What Would Be Your Advice To Anyone Facing Homelessness?homeless reframing

Just stay strong.  I know that might sound easier said than done, but try to reframe your negatives into positives.   So for example:

  • I considered that sleeping outside meant I was getting plenty of fresh air;
  • While I had no car, I did have a bike and that meant I got plenty of exercise;
  • Although I had no shoes I had a pair of flip-flops. This helped me to develop a cool tan line!

Are There Charities In The US Who Support The Homeless?

Currently in the county I live in there are no homeless shelters.  There are a few Churches who help the homeless.  But transportation is often a barrier to getting to the facilities.

I applied for and was granted Food Stamps, which helped me to buy food.  But with no cooking or refrigeration facilities my choices were limited as to what I could eat.  Hot dogs or pasta out of a tin were regular meals for me.

How Did You Turn Things Around?homeless mindset and self-belief

It was a long process.

I had to do a lot of Mindset work to get my confidence back.   I had to believe that I had gifts to share with the world.

Luckily I was able to connect online with an awesome Mindset and Business Coach – Liz Hancock from England.

Liz believed in me more that I believed in myself.  It was through her that I recovered my confidence and self-esteem. Without her help I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Liz and the other people in her private coaching group were very supportive of me and they always encouraged me.

We figured out what my Zone of Genius was & I was able to start offering Virtual Assistant, Social Media Marketing and Research Services on Facebook.  I’m now proud to say that I have a great business with international clients and am in a much better place.

Care Bags For The Homeless

A project that I am working on right now is : “CARE BAGS FOR THE HOMELESS” — Putting the following in plastic bags: water — socks — hand sanitizer — tissues — lip balm — snacks ,etc. These can be filled for about $5 each.  My plan is to hand out at least 150 of them.   If you wish to donate follow the link: :

Do You Have A Story To Tell?

I’m looking for inspiring women to feature on my blog for 2019.  You may think that you’re not very inspiring but I can promise you that the adversities we overcome and the challenges we deal with in everyday life are often the most inspiring.  If you’re interested in being interviewed for 2019, please click fill in the form below.

By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series



inspiring women Claudia Crawley Bells Palsy

Bell’s Palsy Absolutely Made Me More Ambitious

How would it be if, within 24 hours, your face became paralysed? You could no longer eat or drink, your right eye would not close.

Imagine the terror and how those feelings would be for a young woman? How would it feel if doctors were initially unable to diagnose or offer treatment?  This is what happened to Claudia Crawley when she suffered from Bells Palsy.

For many women this would have been catastrophic. But if you’re an extremely capable and resilient woman like Claudia Crawley you don’t let Bells Palsy stop you!

Claudia enjoyed a successful career before setting up her own coaching business.   Awarded Mentor of the Year in 2017 by City University of London.   A published author and in her spare time Claudia is a stand up comedian!

Claudia Crawley suffered from Bell's Palsy

Claudia, Please Introduce Yourself To Our Readers

I’man Executive Coach, Career Coach, accredited Master Coach, Mentor of the Year, 2017 (City, University of London). A co-author of ‘Winning in Life and Work’, ‘The Power of Being a Woman’ and author of‘Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things: 5 Steps To Add Extra To Ordinary’.

I enable women to drive their own ‘careers’,whatever their challenges, current status, or feeling they have run out of road. I help them to get ahead and stay ahead.

What Inspired You To Set Up Your Business?

I’d been a trained social worker and manager with an MBA, for a long, long time, working mainly with women in a female dominated profession.

In the late 90’s I applied for my dream job as a diversity consultant.  I  failed to get it through inadequate preparation.  After that, very disappointed, I lost my way.

In 2009, I had a great job as a knowledge, learning and professional development manager.   This was in a social work organization called CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).  But I was feeling unchallenged and down.   I’d become stuck in my career.

When a woman from another department took out a grievance against me, unsuccessfully I might add, I got myself a coach to help me deal with the stress.

She was a blessing in disguise. Because through this experience I found coaching and realised it was a powerful way of enabling change within individuals.

I decided to train to be a coach and used it to work with managers in the organisation.

When I was made redundant, in 2010, it seemed a no-brainer to use my newly acquired coaching skills.   I wanted to work with women like myself who were stuck or who were managers, dealing with challenges in the role.

What Do You Believe Are The Major Factors That Hold Women Back On The Corporate Ladder?

I support the findings of Tom Schuller in ‘The Paula Principles’.

He found that although globally:

  • Girls tend to leave school with better qualifications than boys.
  • Women graduate with better degrees than men
  • Women are more likely to develop themselves once in the work place

But generally women were operating below their level of competence.

He found a number of reasons for this:

  1. Discrimination – we’re denied jobs or higher pay because we’re women.
  2. Structural issues e.g. getting affordable childcare.
  3. Lack of confidence. Women often lack the confidence to put themselves forward for a job, even when well qualified for it. Men, on the other hand will go for it even when they don’t have all the requirements.
  4. Lack of networks. Women don’t have the same rich network connections as men that can help them climb the career ladder.
  5. Desire for a better quality of life. Women may not want the stress of being at the top. They may consciously decide in favour of a better quality of life and go for a lateral rather than a vertical career. Were the challenges women encounter at the top less stubborn, more women might opt to climb further.

What’s clear is that the world is missing out on the skills and talents of competent women. Studies have shown that the more women at the top the better the organisation’s health.

Can You Tell Us About Your Hobby?Claudia Crawley Stand Up Comedian

My hobby is stand-up comedy, which I discovered by accident.

My life had become a bit dull, full of hard work and long hours and very little fun. When a close friend encouraged me to do a stand-up course at the Comedy School in London, I was a bit hesitant.  I thought, ‘Moi, serious Claudia, do stand up?’

When my partner twisted my arm by paying for the course, well, I had to do it, didn’t I?

Doing my first gig, at the end of the course was like magic.  People actually laughed – a lot. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It was incredible.

I well and truly fell in love with stand-up. I’ve done several gigs since then.  I’m currently on another course, which is helping me develop my skills further.

The key thing I’ve learned is that stand-up is not just about standing on stage making people laugh. It’s an art.  There are certain rules.  It has to be worked at and developed if you want to be a real success.

My aim is to use it to take my message into organisations, and make the unpalatable palatable.


You Suffered A Frightening Health Problem Can You Tell Us More?

It was a long time ago. I was in my mid-20s when I suffered from Bells Palsy.

The condition came on gradually over a 24-hour period.  It started with a severe headache at the back of my head.  This moved around to the right side of my face.

Simultaneously, I experienced throat paralysis. When I awoke the next morning one side of my face was totally paralysed. I could neither eat nor drink nor close my right eye. I looked as if I’d suffered a stroke.

It took the doctors a while to reach a diagnosis and at the time they had no way of treating it.  Had I been treated, I might now have 100% movement in my face. As it is, I have about 85% movement.

So, now, I can’t raise my right eyebrow.  My right eye is smaller than my left.  That same eye weeps when I eat. My mouth is a little lopsided, which affects my smile.

The nerves in my face seem to operate a bit weirdly. For example, when I blink with my right eye it triggers a tick lower down my face. This gets worse when I’m stressed or nervous.


Having An Asymmetrical Face Is Pretty Scaryinspiring women Claudia Crawley Bells Palsy

The whole experience was traumatic, all the more so, because in this image conscious world, your face is the first thing people see on meeting you.

Imagine waking up one day to find that one side of your face for which you’d been complimented all your life had dropped and was paralysed. Imagine the horror!

So, my self-confidence plummeted and for years I felt ugly.

The worse thing was that it took away my smile, which of course is crucial to forming new relationships. I learned to live with this new identity – I had no choice. But I had difficulty seeing past the damage whenever I looked in the mirror.  Looking in the mirror was something I hated doing.

I also hated being photographed and if the photographer insisted, it would have to be on my ‘best side’. This may explain why I’ve found doing videos a turn off – although I’ve done a few. Possibly a matter of needs must.

Last year I had a session of Rapid Transformational Therapy with Dr Cheryl Chapman. Whilst my face is slightly better, the key thing I gained was the confidence to finally accept myself for who I now am and for how I look.

I no longer notice my facial imperfections in the same way and I’m no longer obsessed by it.

Interestingly it never got in the way of my personal relationships. This is an indication that the problem was mine, rather than other people’s approach to me.


How Did You Deal With The Emotional Impact?

My husband at the time was incredible supportive. I couldn’t have got through it without him.

My first instinct was to hide away. But how can you live a life in hiding?

Especially when you’ve a large network of friends. I’d no choice but to be upfront with my friends and family about what had occurred. It’s not an illness you can hide after all. But by being open I gained their support.

Did Having Bell’s Palsy Impact Your Confidence And Self-Esteem?

I’ve often wondered why Bell’s Palsy happened to me. What did I do to deserve it?

It’s as if I lost my looks through a nasty cosmic joke. But it’s not the worst affliction I could have had.  Although I thought it was for many years.  Now I’m in a better place emotionally, I recognise that I’ve so much to be grateful for.

Did Bell’s Palsy Impact Your Career?

I guess that unconsciously my career success was compensation for ‘losing my good looks’.  I was ambitious and driven and put everything into climbing the ladder.  However, I couldn’t shake off the self-consciousness that a lop-sided face gave me.

So perhaps I may have been more successful had I not had this experience – who knows?

Has Bell’s Palsy Had An Impact On Your Role As A Mentor And Coach?

If anything, Bell’s Palsy has made me sensitive to the plight of other people, especially to those with disabilities.

I met a man recently who’d experienced Bell’s Palsy and I felt an immediate connection with him. I was able to share my story and empathise. We became good friends as a result.

What Is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s Palsy is a form of facial paralysis. This is what I found on the internet: “Bell’s Palsy is a condition that causes a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. It is named after the Scottish anatomist Charles Bell, who was the first to describe the condition”.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

Here’s what I’ve learned about the cause of Bell’s Palsy.  It’s when the seventh cranial nerve becomes swollen or compressed, leading to paralysis or facial weakness. The reason why this happens remains unclear, but there seems to be a connection with viruses (including herpes, influenza and respiratory tract infections), stress and a run-down immune system.

The following groups are at risk of getting it: pregnant women; babies; those with diabetes or lung infection, or a family history of the illness. In my case, none of these applied.

Can You Make A Full Recovery From Bell’s Palsy?

Most people make a full recovery within three to six months.  It may take longer for more severe cases of Bell’s Palsy.

In rare cases, like mine, the symptoms may return or may be permanent.

I’m one of the unlucky few.

Did You Get Support From The Medical Profession And In What Form Did That Take?

I got very little support from the medical profession at the time.  The doctors weren’t terribly sympathetic. I felt that they saw it as a cosmetic issue. They did not seem to realise it was one that could affect a person’s mental health and sense of self.

In the absence of a structured treatment package, I was left to deal with it alone.

I tried alternative medicine over a number of years, including physiotherapy, acupuncture and cranial osteopathy, but nothing brought permanent change or enabled the return of my old face.

What Has Been The Most Challenging Thing You’ve Had To Deal With Regarding Bell’s Palsy?

My own feelings: about my looks and my resulting lack of confidence. I’ve only just got to a place where it no longer bothers me thanks to Rapid Transformational Therapy and Dr Cheryl Chapman.

Do You Feel That There Is Enough Awareness Of Bell’s Palsy And If Not What Could Be Done To Increase The Understanding Of The Condition?

Between 12,400 and 24,800 people per year are affected by Bell’s Palsy in the UK.

But there’s insufficient awareness of the condition and insufficient research.  More research is needed into diagnosing, treating and managing Bell’s Palsy and facial palsy generally.

What Would Your Advice Be To Anyone Who Is Diagnosed With Bell’s Palsy?

Seek medical advice and see your GP immediately.

Go to the website of Facial Palsy UK and get as much information as possible about the condition and how to manage it.

The absence of information was one of the most frustrating parts of the illness for me. Had this charity existed when I was first diagnosed, I believe it would have reduced my panic and despair.

Are There Any Charities Or Support Groups That Help Sufferers Of Bell’s Palsy?

The charity, Facial Palsy UK, was established in 2012 with the aims of:

  • Increasing awareness of the condition and its consequences;
  • Improving the physical and emotional health of those with facial palsy ;
  • Promoting diagnosis, acute and long-term management and rehabilitation of people living with facial palsy.

One of their roles is to fund raise for world-class research.  When Facial Palsy UK was launched in 2012, very few research projects investigating the prevalence, causes and treatments of facial palsy existed.

Facial Palsy UK has established a Facial Palsy awareness week that runs from 1-7 March each year.  Look out for it in 2019.

Click this link to find out more from Facial Palsy UK.

Winning Pathways Coaching

If you are inspired by Claudia’s story and would like to find out more her mentoring and coaching programs for women, you can find out more at Winning Pathways Coaching. 

Do You Have A Story To Tell?

I’m looking for inspiring women to feature on my blog for 2019.  You may think that you’re not very inspiring but I can promise you that the adversities we overcome and the challenges we deal with in everyday life are often the most inspiring.  If you’re interested in being interviewed for 2019, please click fill in the form below.

By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Julie Foster

Dancing With Breast Cancer: Happy To Be Alive

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  I’m thrilled to share with you the story of one of the most amazing, courageous and sassy women I have the honour to know.Breast Cancer Awareness Month Julie Foster

Julie Foster is, as she says in her own words, a survivor.  But Julie is much more than this.  She is a caring, fun-loving woman who loves helping people.   Julie leads by example and loves to nurture others.

I first met Julie in 2015 when she invited me to her Strawberry Tea Party fundraising event for breast cancer.  She raised £1250 in the space of an afternoon.  The venue was overflowing and the energy amazing.

It was evident that Julie radiated so much positive energy and love for others that they were attracted and wanted to reciprocate.  I wanted in!  So signed up to her regular networking and personal development group.

Julie was diagnosed with Breast Cancer when she was 59 years old.  She enjoyed a successful corporate career as well as running her own coaching business.  Julie had everything to look forward to.  She was due to retire from her corporate role, excited about spending more time on her business and quality time with her husband….. Sometimes though, life has some unexpected twists and turns.  Julie’s belief system and positive mindset have played an enormous part in helping her to deal with a very difficult time in her life.

In Julie’s Words…

Julie, please introduce yourself to our readers…

First and foremost I’m a woman, Daughter, Wife/Widow/Mother/Grandmother and a survivor. My mission in life is to enable success in anything.

Was Your Diagnosis Part Of A Routine Mammogram?

Yes it was part of a routine mammogram.  However, due to previous occurrences of cysts in my breasts I attended annually.  Thank heavens I did or this would not have been picked up so early and dealt with so well.

What Did You Go Through When You Were Diagnosed?

A sense of disbelief.   A letter arrived to tell me that because of an unclear mammogram result I should attend a clinic in Luton.  I still believed that nothing was wrong and the re test was normal in the circumstances.

I went through the process with my husband Kevin supporting me.  My mindset training over many years enabling me to keep my options open.  I knew not to create fear in the uncertainty, as this affects your cellular composition.Breast Cancer Supported By My Husband

We were called back to see the consultant  Mrs Brazier, (no joke, that’s her name!).  I saw a picture of my breast on the computer screen.  She looked at me with an expression that told me bad news is about to come.

True enough it was not good.  The x-ray clearly showed some ‘salt and pepper’ markings just behind the nipple.

These markings can be calcium deposits.  They can also indicate cells that are changing or are in a cancerous state.   Mrs Brazier asked me to prepare for a biopsy to test the tissue so we can be sure what we are dealing with.  I thought this would be in a week’s time or some time in the future. NO. She says we will do this right now.

At this point my mind is racing.  My husband’s hands are sweating, while he puts on a brave face for my sake.  I’m starting to feel like this is not really happening to me.

While being positioned on the doctors couch she and the nurse assisting are trying to settle my nerves by telling me that it will hurt.  In fact Mrs Brazier tells me it’s the most sensitive place to have a biopsy etc etc.  So I get all assertive and speak up.

Meditation And My Believes Were Vital

“Please stop talking to me as I am going to meditate my way through this procedure” I secretly wanted to tell them to stop frightening me and putting negative thoughts in my head. This is how I rock and roll!

I then calm myself through practiced breathing and take myself into a place where I focus on a star, a star filled with only light and love.  Silently asking my Angels and Guides to give me the pain relief I need to go through the procedure.  Focusing on breathing and being relaxed and pain free. I feel some tugging and sensations around my breast but no pain.

Bandages go on and I resume my seat with the consultant and my Husband.  Her opening line to me.  “How do you do that?”  I need you in my waiting room to teach all my patients to do that.  Smiling I acknowledged the help I had just received.  I explain I have been practising focused meditation for years so not sure what I can do in the waiting room.

While I believe that I could produce a meditation for people to practice listening to, the challenge would be to get it to them early enough in the fast track treatment that followed.

The Longest Week Of My Life

I am told to expect a phone call the following Wednesday afternoon after the team have studied the biopsy and xrays.  This would be the longest week of my life.

The uncertainty is the thing that drives you mad.  I just wanted to know so I could plan what to do about it.  Any way the call came, and the result was that I had a DCIS.  Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, which means I have cancer cells grade 3 inside a duct behind the nipple.  I am told that it is contained but basically could blow at any time, cells would then be loose and free to spread around the breast tissue.  In the duct tube they were contained and safe for now.

More waiting, with what feels like a time bomb in my body.  The news was shocking and I felt like I wanted to escape, couldn’t breathe in the house, needed to get out in the fresh air. Kevin asked me what I needed/wanted so I asked him to drive us to our favourite spot The Three Lakes at Westmill Farm.  We had spent many happy hours there and I loved the feeling of space.  It was a beautiful day at the beginning of May, nature just budding into it’s glory.  We walked and talked for hours.  Deciding on how and what to tell the family.

I had a week to wait to see the Consultant surgery who would perform the operation needed to extract the cancerous cells.


How Did You Deal With Telling Your Family That You Had Breast Cancer?Breast Cancer My Family Organised A Barbecue

To be honest I don’t remember, and Kevin isn’t here to ask.  It’s all a blur of lost days and surreal times.  Walking around in disbelief and shock while trying to function on the outside I was very much in my own head, my own thoughts.

I do remember that my 3 children and my Mum treated me differently, possibly they didn’t and I was interpreting their behavior in a strange way.  They had a look of pity, of fear in their eyes and on their faces as you do when you hear the word cancer it strikes fear of death I guess.

My family organised a Barbecue for my Son’s Birthday.  I was angry with them as I felt the reason for organising was because they feared there might not be many more with me attending.

I don’t do pity and weakness very well.  My belief system is very much based on thoughts become things, so I didn’t want to fuel any negative thoughts.

Can You Tell Us About Your Treatment Process?

Physically I had to loose my left nipple because the carcinoma was too close to it to save. My Surgeon Miss Deol (wonderful woman) tried her best to save it but couldn’t.  After all this is about saving my life not my nipple.

I remember her asking me how attached I was to it, lol.  I replied I had had it for 59 years and quite liked it.  She did offer me a tattoo, stick on or reconstruction but it was too early to think about that.

Day surgery took care of things and I was soon home with my glued together scar and a pack or three of pain relief.  I needed it later that night.

A straight-line scar was all that remained of the offending cancer and for the first time in weeks I felt safe, glad that the time bomb was no more.

After further analysis of the cells and xrays etc I was told that I would not need Chemotherapy, but I would be given radiotherapy.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

Personal Conflict Of Beliefs

I had been happy to have the time bomb removed but I was not happy about the radiotherapy.  It conflicted with my spiritual beliefs about healing of cells.  There I was believing that through thoughts I would heal my body and assist it to do so with rest, goof food and spiritual healing.  Being asked to allow radio waves to bombard my perfectly healthy cells, burn tissue away just in case a random cancer cell had escaped and was running around trying to find a home in my breast was totally against my principles.

I was in real turmoil over agreeing to the treatment.  So, over the next few weeks I meditated on this, consulted my spiritual Mentor and others. I read lots of material on the treatment and looked at the benefits v the potential damage to my body.

In the end I decided to go ahead with the treatment and blend the sciences, so I could receive the best of both worlds.  I will always remember the look of relief on the faces of my family when I told them I would go ahead.

It was difficult to go into the chamber every day for 6 weeks and allow them to bombard my body with burning rays.


How Did Breast Cancer Affect Your Mental And Emotional Health?Breast Cancer Bra Competition

I do believe that my mental health was pretty good because of all the years of mind training I have done, because I have deep faith and a wonderful family who allowed me to express my feelings, who asked me what I wanted and listened to me.

Emotionally I was up and down and definitely in turmoil over the decision I mentioned before.

I am a natural researcher so I went researching for information on the breast cancer I had and what the treatments would do.  In the end I had books on this and that arriving from every day.  It had to stop.  There’s such a thing as information overload!

In the end I chose to relax and surrender to whatever was to come.

Did You Get Enough Support From The Medical Profession?

The surgical team, including the breast care nurses were fabulous and supported me while I was in clinic and if I telephoned they were very patient and reassuring.

I developed an abscess which created secondary problems for me and they supported me through this very well.

As A Mother, Wife And Daughter What Was Your Biggest Challenge?

Being conscious that my family all needed different things and that I could not always provide what they needed.

My lovely Mum just wanted to put me on the couch and feed me chicken soup!  She wanted to treat me like I was really ill and needed her to do everything for me.  Not easy for me to receive.  However, after discussing this with her I allowed her to put me on the couch and look after me for one whole afternoon.  Then I jumped up and got on with life.  I think it helped her.

Did You Have A Support Network Outside The Medical Profession And Your Family?

I am blessed to have a wonderful network of clients in my business and friends who understand me. My clients collected together items that they knew I would like and delivered me ‘A Box of Love’ I will always remember opening all the little packages and crying at every one because the thought behind the gift was so very meaningful.  They held parties, kept me cheerful and positive as well as allowed me to cry on their shoulders and share my thoughts.

Did You Join A Support Network For Cancer Patients And Survivors?

No.  I didn’t want to spend my time around others who were suffering and hear their experiences.  This may sound selfish and, in a way it was.  I chose to be supported by others who would lift my spirits and make me laugh.

How Did Having Breast Cancer Make You Feel About Your Body?

If you mean my image, then it felt quite odd to look at a body that was no longer symmetrical. Everything about us is symmetrical, well it was for me.  Therefore, looking at myself in the mirror felt very odd.

Looking down on myself was also strange as I was used to my curves and now I had a boob with a straight edge.  I was assured this would soften and round over time and it has.

The abscess caused an unfortunate dip in the center of the scar which I think spoils the amazing job Miss Deol did of trying to retain a natural shape.  I have been offered a fat implant, taking fat from my stomach to fill the gap.  I may have this, not sure.

Generally, I was happy to be alive and worked on being proud of my new original shape and look. My Husband helped me very much to feel beautiful too.

My body is still changing three years on, so decisions about any reconstruction are on hold.  I know I don’t want a stick on, can you imagine? The tattoo idea was appealing but I don’t want one.

What Impact Breast Cancer Had On Your Life?

Interesting question this as I am a person who lives, very much, in the present moment or in the future. Very little attention given to the past unless I am giving it focus for a purpose.

Three weeks after the end of my radiotherapy my husband passed away unexpectedly, so I didn’t really think much more about me.  My health was very good and with lots of rest I was recovering well.  Grief took over really.

I was reflecting on this question and realized I have probably just kept putting one foot in front of another and here we are.  Not a bad thing in my book.

Has Breast Cancer Changed Your Relationship With Nutrition, Exercise and Self-Care?

Yes, all the research I did at the time resulted in my awareness of what sugar does to the body has meant that I try not to eat it too much.  Whenever I can I choose good fresh produce and stay away from sweet cakes. I never did drink fizzy drinks (unless accompanied by Jack Daniels or Gin) so everything in moderation is my philosophy now.

I enjoy food and having the odd alcoholic drink.  Sometimes a Danish pastry jumps into my trolley when I’m shopping!  But I respect my body more now and treat it with kindness.  Not obsession just kindness.

What Would Be Your Message For Women Regarding Screening And Self-Examination?

We are very fortunate to live in a part of the World where we can access medical services, undergo tests to prevent some diseases progressing.  For me I consider screening potentially saved my life.  Self-examination would not have helped me. I do practice this but my cancer was too deep to feel. No lump or anything external to find.

What Would Your Advice Be To Anyone Diagnosed With Breast Cancer?

Take one day at a time.  Be kind to yourself, ask questions and have a voice, ask for what you want and persist.  Do not allow fear to take over your life, but allow it to be your friend.  Thank it for showing up, but ask it nicely to bugger off!

Be open to receiving the help that people offer, but let it be on your terms.  Love yourself the hardest you ever have and be grateful.

My dance with cancer was brief, and my recovery has been wonderfully easy, I am cancer free three years on and sometimes I think I didn’t really go through much as I have friends who have gone through worse and are no longer with us.  But, my experience was mine and I honour that now.

Breast Cancer – The Facts (Breast Cancer Care)Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, one person is diagnosed every 10 minutes.

1 in 8 women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month around 5,000 people will be diagnosed.

Breast cancer survival is improving and has doubled in the past 40 years in the UK.

Almost 9 in 10 women survive breast cancer for five years or more.

Every year around 11,500 people die from breast cancer in the UK.

An estimated 691,000 are alive in the UK after a diagnosis of breast cancer. This is predicted to rise to 840,000 in 2020. For many the overwhelming emotional and physical effects of the disease can be long-lasting.

A Breast Cancer Care survey found 1 in 4 women (26%) found the end of treatment the hardest part of breast cancer and only 1 in 10 (10%) said they felt positive and ready to move on when they were discharged from hospital treatment. More than half (53%) struggled with anxiety at the end of treatment and nearly a third (31%) with depression.

If you want to find out more or get involved in supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year then take a look at Breast Cancer Care

Inspiring Women Blog Series

We all have a story to share.  As Julie has shown, her story is an incredible one, of positive thinking and using her belief system to help her at a very difficult time in her life.   Her philosophy that no matter what you dream of becoming it is possible, if you embrace life, if you smile instead of frown, if you laugh and play, if you break free from your conditioning and listen to your soul.  Read more….

Your personal journey can be a real inspiration to others.  It may give them courage to talk about their own experiences.  Or it may help them to seek help or give comfort that they are not alone.

So if you have a story to share I’d love to help you.  It doesn’t need to be in the form of recovery from an illness it can simply be your journey.  Every woman I know is an inspiration.  something that may  gruelling physical or mental

By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series

Alopecia Areata Julie

Alopecia Is Not Just About Losing Your Hair

At 14 years old Julie Williams was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata.

When I met Julie last year I was struck by her positive upbeat attitude and endless energy for campaigning and raising awareness of Alopecia.

Julie is mum to two beautiful children, wife, compliance manager, volunteer with Alopecia UK and Changing Faces.  Julie writes a blog about alopecia, autism, parenting and life in general.

Alopecia Areata Choice Of Hairstyles

What Is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a general term for hair loss affecting any part of the hair or body.    There are different types of alopecia ranging from small patches of hair loss (Alopecia Areata) to total loss of all body hair (Alopecia Totalis).Alopecia Areata

Alopecia can affect the hair on your head, eyelashes, eyebrows, beard and body hair.

What Causes Alopecia?

Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder, where your body sees certain hair cells as foreign enemies and attacks them.   It’s not fully understood why this happens or why localised areas are affected. Nor it is understood why hair regrows again.

If you have Alopecia Areata you may be more likely to develop other autoimmune conditions.  Such as thyroid disease, diabetes, vitiligo for example.    But it is not always the case.

Alopecia can affect children, women and men of any age.   It is not catching nor is it related to diet or nutritional deficiencies.    Very stressful events such as bereavement or separation may trigger alopecia. 

Is It Possible To Make A Full Recovery?  

There are treatment options for alopecia which have varying degrees of success for different people. Treatments such as steroid creams, steroid injections or light therapy may be offered to patients through their dermatologist. 

Alopecia sometimes comes and goes.   Alopecia Areata for example, may vary in how many patches of hair are not growing at any one time.  It also varies where on the body those patches are. For some people, alopecia is permanent, whereas others may only experience it for a short period of time. 

There is a genetic predisposition to alopecia, although it is more common in people with other autoimmune conditions.  However, there is no evidence to suggest it is passed down generationally. 

Were You Bullied About Your Alopecia?

I probably was bullied to some degree.  I tend to block out bad experiences and laugh them off so it’s hard for me to recall the detail. Certainly I received more attention than I would have liked as a teenager trying to blend in.

I think for the most part, there was very little awareness of alopecia at the time.  Other children were curious and concerned. They wanted to know if they could catch it, if my wig would come off unexpectedly, that sort of thing. I don’t remember anyone being actively mean to me and I do remember some people being exceptionally kind. I think it’s tough for everyone when you don’t understand why something has happened. 

What Was The Emotional Impact When You Were Diagnosed?

It was very upsetting:

  • I didn’t understand it.
  • Nor did I know anyone else who had experienced it.
  • It was scary because I didn’t know what to do about it.

I felt terrified at the prospect of going to school as I was losing my hair.  When I started to wear a wig. I think it really shook my sense of self. It took me a long time to be properly comfortable with myself after losing my hair – almost twenty years.  Looking back now, I see how much it has affected my self esteem and self worth over the years.

How Did You Deal With The Emotional Impact?

My parents were incredible, they listened, supported me, got me some great wigs.  It was very hard for them too to see their little girl lose her hair.  As a parent myself now, I think it must have been as hard for them as for me. Some of my friends were absolutely wonderful.  They very much had my back at school which made a huge difference.

One of the most helpful experiences I had was meeting the lady I got my wigs from.  Due to the nature of her job, she had met many people with alopecia.  When I was in her shop I remember not feeling so alone. 

I have been dealing with Alopecia Areata for most of my life and by far the biggest support has been the charity Alopecia UK.  I only found the charity a couple of years ago and my acceptance of alopecia has changed significantly since then.  It has been incredible to meet so many other people who look like I do and have been through similar experiences. 

Did You Get Professional Support?

Not a great deal, I was sent to a dermatologist when I was first diagnosed and tried a cream for a while but when that didn’t work.  The only option at the time for Alopecia Areata was steroid injections.  I don’t like needles and the the thought of having them in my head was terrifying!

Alopecia UK are doing great work trying to raise awareness of alopecia with GPs.  They are working to ensure GPs receive training on the condition.  I sincerely hope that makes diagnosis easier for people in the future. 

Has Your Alopecia Impacted How You Feel About Yourself? Julie competing in #british10K for Alopecia UK

I’m sad to say that it has had a very negative impact on how I feel about myself for most of my life. It absolutely crushed my self esteem. It has always been there, distracting me, I’ve spent so much time hiding bald patches in my hair, worrying that people will notice I’m wearing a wig, worrying that the wind will blow – the list goes on. 

I’m happy to say that things have changed for me though, since setting up an Alopecia UK support group in North Herts and meeting many inspiring people with alopecia both through that and the wider social network.  I am very much embracing my alopecia.

I can’t say that I am always happy with the way I look, the patchy headed look takes some adjusting to!  But I like the freedom I have given myself in terms of choice in recent years.  From my collection of seven wigs and a number of scarves / buffs / hats I can choose how I want to look every day.  I can decide whether to put my patchy head on show to the world, or rock up with a perfect wig, or with a nice warm hat.

I like that it is now on my terms and I am in control. Alopecia has become a part of my identity and has led to meeting some wonderful people.  I have some amazing experiences that I doubt I would have had if I hadn’t had Alopecia nor embraced it as part of myself.

How Do You Feel About Wigs?  

It very much depends on the mood I am in!

I find them reasonably comfortable most of the time. I’ve always found it better to try them on and see what feels right on me.

I also think it helps to get them cut to suit my face – I really need a fringe and I am lucky to have a wonderful hairdresser friend who will happily cut my wigs to suit me.

They can get hot in summer, or just a little annoying by the end of the day. I often whip mine off when I get through the door at the end of the day.  But I only liken that to friends who can’t wait to take off their make up or bra once they’re home!

I feel fortunate that I’ve got to a place now where I know I can choose my look each day, if I don’t want to wear a wig then I don’t. 

Are Your Wigs An Extension Of Your Personal Style? 

Oh definitely!

When I was a terrified teenager, I just wanted hair that would make me blend in – as much like my natural hair as possible.

When I was in my late teens, I was much more experimental and had some very fun hair.

Now I’m in my thirties, I have a number of styles and colours and I choose what I’m in the mood for and what goes with my outfit. I mostly wear synthetic wigs which require no styling so my perfect hair takes seconds, I love that. 

How Do You Feel About Not Wearing A Wig?  

I am very comfortable with it now but I wasn’t always.

When I lost enough hair to have to shave it again in my thirties, I didn’t wear wigs for the first year or so as my daughter was still a baby and I worried she might just pull it off when I was carrying her!

I wore scarves for a while but eventually I got comfortable with getting my patchy head out for all to see and I have only had positive experiences with people asking about it (or not asking about it).

I’m glad to have had a lot of positive experiences with children at my kids school and in the wider community about it too, it’s great that they will grow up knowing about alopecia and it won’t be unusual to them if they know someone who develops it.  Awareness really does make all the difference. 

What Reaction Do You Get If You Don’t Wear A Wig?  Modelling For Rebecca Violette UK

Honestly, people are kind and considerate on the whole.

I rarely get questions from strangers and when I do, I try to remember that they are just curious.

The hardest thing for me is when people assume I have cancer and I always find it awkward to have to correct them.

I also suspect that the more confident I have become in myself, the less I notice the reactions of others. I think I used to look for it, and see the worst, whereas now I am usually too busy with my children / work / life to pay much attention to what anyone else is doing!  I’m pretty sure they are too busy to pay much attention to me either! 

What Has Been The Most Challenging Aspect Of Your Alopecia?

My self esteem has been very hard to rebuild over the years.  This has been my greatest long term challenge.

There are some things that have surprised me too such as the impact of losing eyebrows and eyelashes.  I really lost definition in my face without eyebrows (mine are now microbladed).  Without the protection of eyelashes I get things in my eye more than other people.  They also seem to dry out more.  Don’t even get me started on a lack of nose hair in hayfever season! 

What Is Your Advice To Anyone Diagnosed With Alopecia?

Two things:

Push hard with your GP and dermatologist to get the treatment and support that is right for you. And don’t give up pushing for it.

Take a look at Alopecia UK and find a way to connect with other people who have alopecia.  You can do this either online or by joining a local group. The knowledge and experience from people who have alopecia and have been though similar experiences before you is invaluable. 

Please Tell Us About Alopecia UKAlopecia Areata Julie

Alopecia UK is a small charity in the UK which aims to raise awareness, provide support and encourage research into alopecia. 

There are local volunteer led support groups (for adults and children) across the UK, online support, annual conferences and trips, lots of helpful videos and factsheets, suppliers directories, and they help to fund research into alopecia – and a lot more besides! 

How can people help Alopecia UK?

Take a look at and follow Alopecia UK on Facebook, Instagram or twitter. Like and share their campaigns – it’s the quickest and easiest way to raise awareness of the condition. 

They are a very small charity and any fundraising / donations are always very gratefully received – more details on the website of how you can help in this way. 

Like to read Julie’s blog then check it out here


Would You Like To Improve Your Body Confidence?

If you are suffering from low self-esteem or would like to improve your self-worth why not check out my tips to improve your body confidence today.

tall clothing for tall women

We All Want To Be Taller Right?

Many of us dream of being a bit taller.  But as Emma Stewart can testify being tall brings its own challenges. At 6ft tall Emma has always found it a challenge to find stylish, tall clothing.   So she decided to launch her own clothing brand to cater to the needs of tall women.

tall clothing for women

Emma, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a bit about your background.

My name is Emma Stewart, I am 6ft tall, 49 years old.  I have been toying with the idea of starting a tall clothing label for women for around 30 years.    But have only recently been brave enough to jump off the corporate treadmill to follow this pipe dream. Until last spring I’d worked in publishing, in radio production (at Bloomberg and for the BBC) and then in journalism and PR. It’s been a long journey.  But the time finally felt right for a new challenge.

What Was Your Inspiration For Launching Allta?

I have always thought, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to do it’.  It was when I was attending a birthday party of one of my husband’s friends I felt a real pang of envy.  I found myself sitting at a table with several people who ran their own businesses.  At that moment I realised I really did want to be my own boss. Tall clothing was the idea I’d always had at the back of my head.  So I immersed myself in researching the market.

Why Did It Feel Right To Launch A Tall Clothing Brand Now?tall clothing for women

I first started thinking about it when I was in my late teens.  The only options for a 6ft woman were to buy from Long Tall Sally or to buy men’s clothing.  I remember wishing there was more choice available.

I was always convinced that market forces would lead to another strong brand appearing serving the tall clothing market.   More choice did start to appear as high street names such as Gap, Next and Top Shop introduced tall clothing sections, but I still thought there was room for more.   I still didn’t feel that what I wanted to buy was easy to find.

The timing was due to a number of factors.  I had sold a property I co-owned with a friend so had a bit of cash behind me.  My job was making me unhappy in my job.  Then spurred on by my husband and his entrepreneur friends I wanted ‘some of that’.

What Are Allta’s Brand Values?

Allta is about good quality fabrics and garments made to stand the test of time. We are, if you like, about slow – rather than fast – fashion. I have always preferred natural fibres that let your skin breathe.  Natural fibres tend to wear better than synthetic fabrics, being less prone to pilling or losing their shape.

As more has become known about the impact these synthetic fibres have on the environment, this crystallised my position on the matter.  We are keen to avoid synthetics where possible and use good quality fabrics made from natural fibres. We are all about quality, both in terms of the fabrics used and the design and manufacture of the garments.

clothing for tall women

What Made You Decide To Manufacture In The UK?

I wanted to manufacture in the UK firstly from a practical point of view.  It is easier to keep in touch with the manufacturer and consult them/be consulted at every step of the way if you can easily visit them.

We met Fashion Enter, the manufacturer we are using, at the Make It British Live event a couple of years ago in London.  After consulting with a few British manufacturers, they appeared to offer the best combination of services we were looking for.  From pattern cutting to manufacture, and a good range of pricing options.

It wasn’t originally our goal to work with a social enterprise.  But I am pleased that we are as this fits nicely with our overarching ethos of sustainability.

What Is Your Approach To Sustainability?

As mentioned above, this is something that I think is only now being seriously addressed in the fashion industry.

It is something I am keen to include in our brand values and working practices.

We are reflecting this in our choice of fabrics and suppliers and I am actively researching suppliers who can help us make the best choices via trade shows like the Future Fabrics Expo and bodies such as the Sustainable Angle.

I am keen to learn more about the best working practices so that we may adopt them as we grow.

Allta Tall Clothing For Women What Has Been The Biggest Challenge You Have Faced So Far?

Each step along the way appears to be the biggest challenge at the time!  That is until you get past it and look at the next one!

Finding suppliers was challenging and finding how to put together a tech pack and detailed instructions to my manufacturer.

Tackling quality control issues along the way; managing the launch; all of these things have been challenging.

Now it is marketing and promotion. This is something I have been working along since we started the business in May 2017, but now that we have launched it needs constant work and investment.

How Are You Building Awareness Of The Brand?

I am exploring both online and offline options.

We launched the brand with a pop-up shop at the Henley Regatta, which seemed to work well in terms of meeting potential customers. We made our first sales and received some excellent feedback on the products. We are now looking at other pop-up shopping events and are planning the next one for the Rare Brands Christmas Market at Goodwood Racecourse in November.

We are also working at building our online presence for tall clothing via Instagram and Facebook. I am working with a friend who is experienced in PR and she has been pursuing options with national and local press as well as the women’s magazine market.

We have found a couple of ambassadors to work with us by blogging and promoting us on Instagram and I am now looking into Facebook advertising. So we have our fingers in lots of pies to build brand awareness.  I am very conscious that it will not happen overnight.

What Are Your 3 Top Tips For Anyone Considering Launching Their Own Brand?tall clothing for women

– Make use of the London College of Fashion’s short courses.  They run a number of courses on starting a business, full of good advice.
– Join fashion/entrepreneurs’ networking groups.  It’s really useful to share stories and experiences with others in the same situation.
– Make sure you allow sufficient budget for marketing and promotion.  As getting the clothes made is the easy bit!

Where Can Women Find Your Products? or at the Rare Brand Market Christmas Market, 22-24 November at Goodwood.

Who Has Been Your Biggest Inspiration?

My husband has been running his own business for 14 years and has seen some tough times as well as successes.   He now has 2 full time jobs!  Running his company and working as my finance/planning/spreadsheet guru at Allta. He is always pragmatic, cool-headed and stays positive and upbeat when I am in the doldrums. He is a superstar and has encouraged me every step of the way.

Where Do You See Allta In 5 Years’ Time?

So far we have just launched with a very small collection of jackets. I would like us to have a much wider range of tall clothing in 5 years time.  I want the range to include dresses, tops, trousers, skirts…the works. Ideally I’d have a small team working with me then, too. I would like the brand to be a recognized player in the tall clothing sector.   I am aiming to have a loyal customer base, who share our values and love our clothes.

Thanks Emma!

I’d like to thank Emma for a fabulous interview and some great insights into launching a new clothing brand.

For many of us we may wish we were a bit taller, shorter, etc – how that grass is always greener on the other side!  But it can simply be that we just need to be a bit more confident about our own bodies.  If you’d like to get a copy of my top tips for body confidence, then sign up know for your free download.

celebrating international friendship day

International Friendship Day: Help Me Celebrate

Before I started my entrepreneurial journey in 2014 I can honestly say I struggled with relationships with other women. Wow that feels really vulnerable to share, but it’s true. I had a few very special and close friends but didn’t feel I belonged in a women’s world.  The idea of even talking about celebrating International Friendship Day would have been an anathema to me!

Limiting Beliefs

I’d spent the previous twelve years in a corporate environment where I very definitely ‘wasn’t one of the girls’.  I worked extremely long hours, which set me apart from my peers – I found it hard to switch off and socialize.

As a member of the management team I felt I needed to keep a certain distance from colleagues, particularly as the only woman in a senior role.   Interestingly the senior male managers were very sociable with the staff and managed this juggling act.   So guess how much of this was self-perception!

The decade before that I’d run my own business.  Again as the ‘boss’ I felt I needed that demarcation with my staff.  I was also working from dawn to dusk, couldn’t switch off and so apart from my very strong friendships, acquaintances dwindled away.

The long hours meant I didn’t make the time to socialize outside work. My social life, such as it was, revolved around the gym and studio classes, i.e. not that social.

Notice the pattern to my behaviour!   The truth of it was that I wasn’t confident.

Part of that was down to my eating disorder (at least until around 2006) but it was also that I was living a lie. I didn’t really know who I was and I didn’t feel authentic – I simply wasn’t ‘me’.

I felt that I spent my time trying to live up to very high expectations imposed by others and by myself.  Others have helped me to see that this is the result of conditioning throughout my life.

So What Changed?women empowering women

I did, by letting go.  It wasn’t a massive epiphany – I didn’t set out on a journey of self-development.  To be honest I wasn’t even quite sure what that meant and was wary about finding out!

Leaving the corporate world the second time around in 2014 was the best thing that I had done for years!  It allowed me to rediscover who I was.  To reflect on what would make me happy.

There were rabbit warrens, false starts and expensive mistakes as I navigated my way through the winding waterways. But the consistent thing throughout my journey since 2014 has been the presence of other women in my life.

celebrating international friendship dayWomen Empowering Women

Women I’ve met, with whom I’ve built strong relationships and deep bonds.  Women I know will be there for me and I’ll be there for them too.  To cheer each other on and be each others’ trumpet players!  Be there for each other, with shoulders to cry on, mugs of coffee and glasses of wine as needed.  Providing each other with a safe space to talk and offer support, hold each other accountable.  But most importantly to enjoy each other’s company and celebrate each other.

International Friendship Day

On International Friendship Day I want to reach out and say a huge thank you to each and every one of the awesome women, who has been part of my journey so far.  Thank you for being there and for allowing me to be part of your lives.

If you’d like to keep on celebrating being awesome why not join us on Facebook?  I run Awesome Women as we’d love to welcome you to our tribe!





Inspiring Women Behind A Camera

What does photography have to do with styling?  I’ve decided to revitalise my inspiring women series of blogs but to update them to include vlogs.   I love doing them and I hope you enjoy engaging with them.


Behind The Scenes At Ufurria Photoshoot with Chio Fernandez

I caught up with Chio Fernandez over a coffee a few weeks ago.  We don’t have time to meet very often as we’re both so busy, but the energy is always incredible when we do get together and catch up on each others news.    Chio’s business is forever evolving and gets more exciting every time she enters another chapter.   She always has new ideas about how to tell stories with a lens regardless of the subject.  She works with some big brands like Amazon, Air BnB and is a brand ambassador for FujiFilms, but is also passionate about working with new and innovative brands.

Contagious Passion!

Chio’s passion for telling stories with a lens is contagious.  It’s the reason I love working with her on photoshoots.   We have worked together at least four times and the results have always been amazing and everyone’s had fun.  Chio also shares my passion for diversity and inclusivity.  When I was involved with Models of Diversity Fashion Show she willingly gave up her Saturday to come along and capture the event.

As a brand ambassador for FujiFilms Chio also uses her role to speak at events, such as the Photography Show.  She is passionate about inspiring women to push themselves forward in photography.   Chio believes that women don’t get the recognition they deserve, particularly in photography, because they struggle to self-promote.  Women are more likely to suffer from self-doubt and imposter syndrome.    I will let her explain this in more detail in our interview.

Check out some of Chio’s fabulous work on her website

Inspiring Women Models Of Diversity Fashion Show

Models Of Diversity – image by Chio Photography

Calling All Inspiring Women!

We are all inspiring women.  This is a bold statement and one that I truly believe.  We have role models and people that we look up to, but we should also look inwardly and reflect on our own journeys from time to time.

If you would like to be part of my Inspiring Women series of Blogs or Vlogs I’d love to hear from you.  Just complete the form below. Even if you don’t feel that you are inspiring why not let others help you to see that you are just incredibly awesome!



By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series


Ruth Randall Life Coach

Beating Yourself Up Is Pointless

Welcome to Part 3 of my interview with Ruth where Ruth finally learns that beating yourself up is a destructive behaviour and there are much better approaches to life.

In part 1 we looked at how her life had been perfect before plunging into chaos.  In Part 2 we saw how Ruth began to rebuild her life before almost sabotaging her happiness.  As life began to look great, Ruth and Rob decided to try for a baby.

It is very hard to imagine their shock and grief when they excitedly turned up for the thirteen week scan, believing everything to be well.  They were given the tragic news that their baby had died at eight weeks.

Ruth Randall

Beating Yourself Up

I was unable to speak to anyone.  Text was the only way I could communicate.  Sleep was impossible and I was unable to leave the house.   In short I cut myself off from the outside world.    I felt so guilty that I was denying Rob his own child.

As Rob doesn’t drive, when he went back to work he needed a lift.   I had no option but to leave the house and found enough courage to drop him off and head into St Albans.  I vowed with myself that I would do some shopping in preparation for our wedding.

Entering the first shop my mind went blank.  I totally forgot why I’d entered the store.  The combination of the music, early morning shoppers and general noise totally overwhelmed me.

I froze for a moment before turning and fleeing back to the car.  Scrambling to unlock the door I fell into the seat and sobbed my heart out for around 20 minutes.

It reaffirmed to me that I simply wasn’t able to carry on a normal life at that point.  I retreated to the safety of my home.

beating yourself up

Surreal Hen Party 

The pressure was on, because our wedding was only 3 weeks away and I was still awaiting a natural miscarriage. Given the circumstances the hospital offered me drugs to induce the miscarriage.

It was an easy decision to accept this treatment. The procedure was to be given the tablets which can take up to a couple of days to work.  I would need to return to the hospital two days later.    On Friday I was given the tablets and told to return to the hospital on Sunday.

There was one slight flaw with this plan.  My hen party was on the Saturday!

We had arranged a spa day.   Everyone was very excited, had booked and paid for a number of treatments.  When my friends heard about my hospital appointments and the procedure they wanted to cancel, but I refused.  Even if I had to pull out I wanted my friends to enjoy the day they had been looking forward to for ages.

Luckily I was able to attend and we all went ahead with our spa day, albeit it was pretty surreal, given the circumstances.

massage therapy spa day

Moving On

Two weeks before our wedding there was a scout trip to London for a sleepover on HMS Belfast.

As a Scout Leader I was part of the team supervising the children.  I wasn’t sure how I was actually going to manage, as I was still unable to leave the house.  The thought of going into London with the crowds and being there for the children as a responsible leader was simply terrifying.

But I needed to do it! I was so scared that if I didn’t that I would never leave my house again.

We live near the station and Rob walked with me through the town centre, crowded with Saturday shoppers towards the station.  When we reached the concourse of the station it was packed with scouts, leaders and rucksacks. I just froze.

Rob whispered that we could just go home.  But I knew I had no choice and had to summon up every bit of willpower to get on that train.

The strange thing was that once I got on the train I was fine. It was a bit like the abseiling – once I’d gone under the rail it really was okay.

It was a complete switch and I had an amazing weekend, it was so much fun.

hms belfast

Our Wedding Day 

Our wedding was amazing and we had a beautiful day. Surrounded by family and friends it was very special.

My heavily pregnant friend was among the guests.  I was fine with that as I genuinely pleased for her.

But what I did find difficult was afterwards hearing about other people getting pregnant. It was a real mixed emotion, I was pleased for them but felt extremely sad at the same time.  However, the biggest thing that upset me was seeing Dads with their babies.

Time was a healer and so was Rob.  As I began to appreciate that he was genuinely not bothered and upset by not having our own baby, it helped to assuage the guilt I was still harbouring.

wedding bouquet

Trying Again

In 2013 we decided to try again for a child and in the spring I fell pregnant.

We went for the first scan at 13 weeks and everything was fine.  We both began to feel excited, especially as we now had a bump!

But during the second scan the Sonographer was struggling to find the heartbeat.

I knew instinctively before the Sonographer told us, that the baby had died.  We were told that as it was further on into the pregnancy I’d need surgery.    The shock once again overwhelmed us and this time it hit Rob much harder.

But for me I was not going to return to that place I’d been in before.  I was determined that I would resist the urge to revert to beating yourself up behaviour.   I went straight back to work the following week.

There was a period of time where we wondered if we should try again or should we not and every month became a bit of an obsession about whether I was pregnant.

We came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to happen and went through a period of acceptance, coming to terms with the fact that we would not have children together.

The only difficult time was when Rob’s sister-in-law fell pregnant.  It was too close to home, I started to head towards beating yourself up territory.  But by then Rob had become very resilient and it didn’t affect him, so consequently I felt much better.

pregnant woman

My Mission In Life

I know what it’s like to beat yourself up and make up stories in your head.   The life transformation course helped me to overcome this.

My work at the Adult Centre, together with my own personality and the Life Transformation course have all helped me to be able to see when others are displaying beat yourselves up behaviour and how destructive it can become.

I love this aspect of coaching. You can see that by asking people the right questions you can get them to think about things differently and see things a different way. Things that were huge obstacles suddenly start to move

While I work with men and women, my clients are predominately women over the age of 30.   The women I see either tend to be holding themselves back with the stories they tell themselves or they are being held back by others.  They all have one thing in common.  They know what it’s like to beat yourself up.

Like a lot of coaches I tend to help people who are experiencing things in life, in a similar way to my own personal journey.

Scout Movement Helped Me Ruth Randall

Becoming Disengaged

The corporate aspect of my business has come about from my experience of working in the public sector.

The public sector is all about budgets, cuts and saving money.  This seems to come at a cost of how this impacts those on a day-to-day basis on ‘the shop floor’.

Take the annual survey for example. It looks good on paper and ticks the boxes.   But exercises like this merely pay lip service to employee wellbeing and engagement.   People weren’t being asked the right questions.   As a result they become disengaged.

Realistically I think it will be a  struggle to change the public sector.  There is intense pressure to deliver to restricted budgets and a lack of willingness for management to become more people centred.  But I believe there are huge opportunities to create a difference in the private sector.

In the Corporate sector people reach burn out. If they had been listened to and had more support they may not have got to that point.

I’m a big fan of Richard Branson whose approach is if you look after your employees they will run the business for you.

richard branson

People Centred Approach

I’ve worked with people who had they been given a stress in the workplace survey when they showed up for work they would have been fine.   But if anyone had asked about stress outside the workplace they’re a long way from being fine. They’re not healthy nor able to do their jobs properly.

If there had been a process in place that helped to recognize problems at an earlier stage then less people would get to a crisis point.

For example one woman I know used to go home, drink a bottle of wine and chain smoke her way through every evening to deal with her stress, but that’s clearly having an impact on them physically as well as the emotional impact.

It seems so obvious to me that if they had a process in place to help employees before they get to burnout it’s a win/win.


I don’t speak corporate, but I do speak human

Everyone is an individual and should be treated as individuals.

Having been approached by a publisher, I’m currently writing a book for the corporate library. It will be about the person-centered approach to business.

Marketing the book will help to promote this side of the business, but my main approach is to have conversations with companies, this may be one HR professional at a time.

The scope for the support they can offer their employees is very varied.

It can take the form of supporting individuals with stress that is clearly impacting on them as individuals and their ability to perform. It can also be coaching for managers to support their employees or helping employees directly.

The beauty of coaching is that I can make this bespoke to individual needs.

Scout Movement Helped Me Ruth Randall

What advice would you give your younger self?

I love this question! My number one advice is don’t be so hard on yourself.  Taking a helicopter view on my own life I believe it would have been much easier, if I had not been so self-critical.  Beating yourself up is a destructive exercise that stops you from moving on.

Given my own experiences I’d also tell my younger self not to give your power away to other people.  My younger self wouldn’t have understood that!

Ruth is a life coach based in Welwyn Garden City Hertfordshire, offering online programs, one-to-one coaching, mentoring and development.  If you would like to find out more about Ruth’s work and sign up for a virtual cup of coffee to chat about how Ruth may be able to help you, then click here.

Scout Movement Helped Me Ruth Randall

How The Scouts Saved Me

Welcome to part 2 of my interview with Ruth Randall where we explore how the Scout Movement pushed Ruth out of her comfort zone but offered Ruth an incredible amount of love and support. We will look at how you can’t say no to abseiling in front of six year olds. Life then took a cruel and tragic turn in 2012.

Scout Movement Helped Me Ruth Randall

Letting Go

I started to spend more time with people who were positive influences on my life.

There was never a big falling out but I gradually spent less and less time with this friend who had caused me so much distress.  But she tried to set my friends against me by making remarks such as ‘we don’t see Ruth anymore. Since she’s started seeing Rob, she’s neglecting her friends’

By that time I was ready to let it go.

I’d been involved in the Scout Movement since my youngest had joined beavers.   I started volunteering and found myself offering to take on the role of a cub leader.   From there I moved on to become a scout leader.  The  Scout Movement offers a really supportive atmosphere and this was just what I need.  Everyone involved in the Scout Movement has a very similar outlook on life.  The movement is full of caring and compassionate people.

scout movement

Way Beyond My Comfort Zone 

I draw the line at going down holes in the ground. But it didn’t stop me from being pushed into doing many things that were right out of my comfort zone!

It’s very difficult to say no to abseiling when you have a group of eager six year olds wanting to do it.

I wasn’t planning on taking part, but my eldest son got to the top of the tower and froze with fear.  So I asked if it would help if I did the abseiling with him.  My fingers were crossed that he’d say no but to my dismay he nodded!  So with a crowd of 6-10 year old eager onlookers I could hardly turn round and retract my offer!

At the top of the training tower the instructor hooked us each into the safety harness, which is attached to a rail.   You are then told that in your own time you should go under the rail and start to lower yourself down.

Life is like abseiling

The abseiling adventure reminded me so much of life.

The feeling that it was quite nice being on the safe side of the rail, knowing I was safe and being able to see, touch and feel my surroundings – being grounded.

But going under that rail represented uncertainty and risk (although not in the case of the training tower) but the analogy still feels the same.

Equally the Scout Movement can show us how to play to our strengths.  We had one boy in our pack who was particularly disruptive in weekly meetings.  Each week we would have to call his dad into a meeting to discuss his son’s behaviour.

That went on until we did a night hike round Hemel Hempstead. A lot of the children were flagging and struggling with the fact we were out late. But he was the one encouraging and motivating them to complete the exercise.  We saw a totally different side to his character that night!

The Scout Movement has been very instrumental in helping many troubled teenagers  but for me it helped me so much with some really tough times in my life.

life is like abseiling

Dealing with Dyslexia 

My eldest is dyslexic but we only found out when he went to senior school.

The primary school that my boys attended had so much in place for children with special educational needs. The school offered a different style of learning that enabled him to do really well.

However the move to secondary school and the method of learning didn’t suit him.

We got him a tutor for a while but that didn’t really help and he found his own way.

Jamie simply wouldn’t accept any help that made him stand out as different, such as having a laptop in class.

He scraped into sixth form and had always been determined that he would go to university and do something with computers.  But an incident with a teacher at a parents evening changed all of that!

You Can’t Do A Levels 

Jamie was really struggling in the sixth form. He couldn’t cope with the A level syllabus.

We went along to a parents’ evening and one of his teachers told him bluntly ‘You need a reality check Jamie, you can’t do A Levels’.  With that my son stormed out of the school.

Jamie did a lot of research and found a computer programming course, which he did for a year before going to college to do a further course to get the necessary UCAS points to go to university.    He’s now at Newcastle University.

While it might have been a harsh comment from the teacher it was probably what Jamie needed and the timing was perfect.  He was extremely  motivated to prove his teacher wrong.

So he worked really hard to get the qualifications he needed to achieve his dream to reach university.

computer programming

Your Personal Development Journey 

One of my work colleagues developed my interest in personal development.

At the time I was struggling with my toxic friendship; my marriage break down and all that was making me feel particularly vulnerable.

I read lots of books and she taught me a lot and I became a bit hooked!

My job was about empowering people. It fascinated me how much people can achieve with the right support or changes to their mindset.

Initially I did a foundation in counselling but felt it wasn’t quite me. I went on to study NLP Practitioners Course and Coaching Course, which really inspired me.

Finally last year I did a Personal Transformation Diploma Course you go in one end and come out the other a completely different person.

I remember saying to Rob that even if I don’t become a Life Coach it’s been worth the investment just for what I’ve got out of the course.

personal development reading

Trying For A Baby

We began 2012 trying for a baby. We weren’t sure if we’d succeed.  But imagine our delight when I fell pregnant.

I had a friend who was also pregnant, having been through a miscarriage the previous year, another friend at work was undergoing fertility treatment. So it all became pretty intense.

In September we went for the 3-month scan and I knew something wasn’t right when we looked at the screen.

The sonographer told us that the baby had died in the womb at around eight weeks.

There hadn’t been any signs, no bleeding and everything felt fine.  It may sound funny but I was just so aware that I was pregnant.  Consequently the news was totally overwhelming.

My world had suddenly been turned upside down in the most cruel and inexplicable way.  I experienced both grief and shock. I’m also very good at beating myself up so I felt that I’d let Rob down and he’ll never have a baby

The hospital did not offer an abortion but instead told me that it should happen naturally!  I was totally overwhelmed…


In Part 3 we will look at what impact losing her baby this way had on Ruth.  We’ll discover how the Scout Movement became a saviour for Ruth once again.

If you missed part 1 we explored how Ruth’s first marriage broke down and how a friendship became toxic and almost caused Ruth to give up her chance of happiness with her new relationship.

Ruth Randall

Marriage Had Become A Co-Existence

Ruth and I met at a personal development group last year.  I immediately warmed to Ruth.  Her gentle empathetic approach and genuine desire to help others shines out like a brilliant light.  When I heard what she had been through on her journey I really wanted to share her story and was delighted when Ruth agreed to be interviewed.

Ruth Randall Life Coach

Ruth would you please introduce yourself?

Hi I’m Ruth Randall. I’m a life coach.  I help women to be happy in their lives and I help employees to be happy in their work.


Your life changed dramatically a few years ago – what happened? 

Until a few years ago, I ‘had it all’.

My childminding business was going very well, I’d built the business up since my own children were very young and I was very proud of the way it had grown.    I  was married with two lovely sons and a really busy social life, which we enjoyed with a wide circle of friends.

But my marriage had become stale. It had got to the point where we were simply co-existing.

Just before my marriage ended we declared ourselves bankrupt.  We had accumulated debts and while it was the right thing to do, it was also pretty scary at the time.

While I was part of a big group of friends, one particular friendship had become quite toxic. It wasn’t a great space to be in and my self-esteem took a big knock.

My self-esteem had never particularly high, which went back to childhood, so it was already quite fragile.

A lot of things were happening at the same time, but equally I wasn’t doing much about it. It was difficult to take any positive steps forward while I struggled with my self-esteem.

self care stop loathing your body

You believe that your friend was unhappy? 

It’s quite sad that this woman clearly had things going on in her life, which she was unable talk about, but it showed and impacted on her behaviour towards others.

I believe she was quite insecure and lacked confidence. She was obviously unhappy with herself and as a result was a controlling person with her friends.

We were part of a really big group but gradually as people left the group, things became more intense.

Very subtly she convinced me that I couldn’t have anything different and that I really needed her in my life.

However, it was so subtle it took a few other people opening my eyes to it, to help me realize what was going on.


How did your friend’s behaviour manifest itself?

If you weren’t in the room you were being talked about, very much like a school bully.

She would criticize you, preferably in front of an audience.   If anyone paid you a complement she would knock it back. She would also play one person off against another.

If we met other people she would always lie about her job, where she lived and create this imaginary world. She was obviously really insecure but bizarrely we just went along with it.

Don’t get me wrong there were good times too.  We worked together, socialized together and went on holiday together as part of a big group, so we spent a lot of time together.

Talking to a friend, who had moved away from the group, helped me to see that I would struggle to see things from a different perspective, while still part of the group.

group of friends

What happened that broke you out of this cycle?

I changed.

My husband and I split up. It had been coming for a long time. We dealt with it and I helped him to move house. We still get on fine and he’s since remarried.

I gave up my child-minding business. I had always said that I’d run my business until my children were at secondary school. My eldest was doing GCSEs and found it difficult to concentrate on his studies with younger children in the house.

It was the right time for me to be looking for a career. When an opportunity came up to work with adults who had learning disabilities, I applied and got the job.

The work attracted very compassionate people, so it was a lovely open and caring place to be.  I started to build a new community.


Your friend tried to sabotage your new relationship?

Yes that’s right. I was already friendly with Rob, who would later become my second husband.

He is much younger than me and she was extremely critical of the relationship.

She told me that he was too young for me and he should be with someone who could give him children.   In essence she was telling me that I wasn’t good enough to be with him.

She was a bit older than me and had a son the same age as Rob, telling me that she would be furious if her son came home and said he was seeing someone older than him who had two teenage children.

While I’d got to the point where I didn’t want to tolerate the criticism any more I still didn’t break off the friendship.


You decided to try to end your new relationship

While I thought I was okay and in a good space in a new relationship, I was in fact quite vulnerable.

I was still working through the issues of my first marriage ending, so I decided the best thing to do was end my relationship with Rob.

So I told him that we were not right together.   We were at different stages in our lives. I’d had my children. Rob was still living at home with his parents. I suggested he needed to look for someone younger.

Rob listened and simply said – listen to yourself, Ruth, that is not you talking. I know whose voice that is talking.  I realised that he was right.

Finally it was the push I needed to start distancing myself from this friend.

In Part 2 of my interview with Ruth we look at how abseiling with the Scouts helped her to realise that learning to abseil was a lot like life!  You could stay on the safe side of the platform behind the safety rail.  Alternatively you could take a chance and with the support of those around you, you could step off the edge into the unknown and take a measured risk.