Sunday, 27 May 2018

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: WAITRESS

Regular DREAMCATCHER blogger Emma shares a powerful piece of writing inspired by her own struggles...

I can’t believe it’s been four years since I first started writing for “Dreamcatcher".  I will forever be grateful to Cathy and the platform she and this blog has given me. Over the years, people have told me how my advice and features has helped them get through rough patches in their lives. This is something that really gives me a sense of purpose. However, to commemorate my fourth year with Dreamcatcher, I wanted to write something raw and honest. As a writer, I sometimes struggle to write about my own feelings, especially directly in the form of a feature which is what I typically write. That is to me the beauty of English, through some means there is always a way to convey how you’re feeling. This is a poem called “Waitress” which is about my ongoing struggle with depression and anxiety. Something which I kept a secret for many years... 


Ding.
In walks another customer.

I keep my back turned.
Praying I won't be noticed.
I thought it would be a quiet day.
It has been a quiet day.

“Miss," says the customer.
"Please turn around; I only want your attention for a minute."

I breathe deeply and try and relax.
Hoping I'll turn around and they will be gone.

“Miss," the customer says again.
“I’ll only take a minute of your time."

I turn around and reluctantly walk towards the customer.
Surprise, surprise, they’ve already made themselves at home.
They've been here before.

“What will it be?" I ask,
But I already know the answer.

“The usual," the customer says,
“I think I'll go for ...
Your confidence, your sense of purpose with a side of your self-belief.
Oh, before I forget, I'll substitute your positive thoughts for negative, uncomfortable ones, I'm sure you won't mind, you let me the last time."

I nod and walk away.
What's the point in arguing?
They'll just keep asking until they get what they want.

After I bring the customer what they've asked for,
They mercilessly ravish it in whole.
Swallowing every bite, they grow stronger as I grow weaker.

As I'm about to close up.
I feel them behind me, their breath on my neck.
A warm tingling sensation that makes me nauseous.
“Any chance of one for the road?" the customer enquiries.

“I don't think I've anything else to give you," I assure them.
“Very well then, until next time," the customer mumbles.
As they finally leave they turn around and say, “Oh of course, your tip, the usual rate I assume? Don’t forget Miss...”

“That I am nothing and of course, that I look fat today .... I know," I say before they get a chance to.

I take a minute after they leave.
When the place is empty, I can think clearly and finally close up.
When the place is empty, I think maybe I don't have to quit just yet.
I’m haunted by how angry the management would be with me. If I moved on from here.
Just as I begin to get a sense of reality, I hear a sound that makes my body ache and head throb.

Ding.
In walks another customer.

CATHY SAYS:
Thank you for sharing this powerful, personal poem, Emma - I love it, and I think others will connect also! Have YOU struggled with anxiety and depression? COMMENT BELOW if you'd like to share...

Saturday, 26 May 2018

QUIZ: WHAT'S YOUR SUMMER STYLE?

Our fun quiz might just help you work out your summer style... give it a go!

1/ What is your fave ice cream flavour?

A) Pistachio 

B) Vanilla with a raspberry swirl

C) Mint Choc Chip 

D) Strawberry



2/ If you could be in any city right now, which would it be?

A) London
, baby! But circa 1950...
B) New York, New York!
C) Wham, bam, Amsterdam!
D) Paris
, ooh la la!

3/ Your friend is coming over to sunbathe in the garden. What will you wear?
A) That amazing vintage swimsuit you found in your gran's wardrobe - Sixties Cool!
B) Your new bikini, of course... and those glittery flip flops you've been saving for the holidays!
C) Shorts and a t-shirt... this isn't the Costa Del Sol, after all!
D) A summery dress and pretty sandals.

4/ The sun is shining, where would you rather be? 

A) Off investigating the nearest ruined castle

B) On a beach, topping up your tan

C) Skateboarding with your pals

D) Picking wildflowers

5/ You are at the park with your friends and your crush approaches. Do you…

A) Flutter your eyelashes and watch them fall at your feet!

B) Flirt back with confidence

C) Ignore them... this is friend-time, not flirting time.
D) Blush and hide your face


6/ What sport do you play?

A) Hockey

B) I don’t do sports, I prefer to watch

C) Football

D) Tennis

7/ What's your dream summer date?
A) A picnic in the park
B) Dinner at a fancy restaurant with a cool sea view!
C) A bike ride to the countryside
D) A walk along a moonlit beach

MOSTLY A’s: VINTAGE
A few well-chosen vintage pieces from charity shops or vintage markets make sure your summer look is one that truly stands out from the crowd. Like your chosen style, you are individual, arty and unique!

MOSTLY B’S: CHIC
Your summer style owes more than a little to glitz and glam - and why not? Summer is the perfect time to shine - make the most of your chic fashion choices before real life forces you back into school uniform again!

MOSTLY C’S: COOL
You're still something of a tomboy at heart... comfort and practicality matter more to you than high fashion. You sometimes have your head in the clouds but your feet are firmly on the ground, and for you summer is all about friendship and fun!

MOSTLY D’S: GIRLY
You may be a feminist at heart, but you love good old fashioned girly style... little dresses, pretty prints, cute accessories and hair-dos. You're smart and ambitious, but deep down a part of you is still a little girl with big dreams!

Cathy says:
What was YOUR result? Accurate or just a bit of fun? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 18 May 2018

DEIRBHILE: TALKING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Reader Deirbhile shares a compassionate and personal piece about mental health and the need for proper support and understanding...

Deirbhile says:
This past week has been Mental Health Awareness Week. I am so glad we are talking about mental health openly and honestly. But this is only the beginning - our mental health services are simply not good enough. Lives are being put at risk. We need properly funded services; we need adequately trained, compassionate, caring mental health professionals. When we are ready to talk, we need someone to listen. We need someone who knows how to help.

Over the course of six months, I attended my GP seventeen times expressing suicidal idealisation.
I did not see a psychiatrist until I attempted to take my own life.

This. Isn’t. Good. Enough.

I am someone who is educated on mental health. I have an outstandingly supportive family and amazing friends. I am doing a job that I love. I knew what help I needed and still I could not get it.

Most people aren’t as lucky and as privileged as I am.
Most people use all the bravery they have going to the GP for the first time.
Most people won’t make it to that 17th appointment.
I heard a statistic recently - one in ten deaths in the area where I live are deaths from suicide.
This is an epidemic.

CATHY SAYS:
I agree with Deirbhile - mental health services are seriously over-stretched and vulnerable young people are suffering because of this. Have YOU struggled with mental health issues or found it hard to access the help you need? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

CORRINA: MY BEST FRIEND HAS STARTED SMOKING!

Reader CORRINA is worried about her best friend but how can she tell her? Maybe SUMMER TANBERRY can help...

Corrina says:

This may sound strange but I think my best friend has taken up smoking. I know her mum smokes so she doesn’t have a good role model but I am worried about her! I can’t tell her because she’ll get angry. How can I let her know?

Summer says:
This is a tricky one. We all know that smoking is bad for our health... the information and health education leaves us in no doubt. However, smoking is very addictive and many people, like your friend's mum, struggle to give up the habit. This sets a bad role model in one way, but in another it just shows that adults are not perfect and can be as flawed as we are... I'm pretty sure your friend's mum would probably be upset to think her daughter is smoking. You're right to tread carefully here... making too much of a drama of this could push your friend in the opposite direction and make her more determined than ever to smoke. Try telling her you are worried about her instead... gentle concern often works better than harsh judgement. Your friend is still at the experimental stage, so step back a little and let her come to her own conclusions. Smoking isn't just a serious health risk, it's hugely expensive and very uncool in a whole lot of ways. In time, your friend will see this. Good luck.

Cathy says:
Summer's gentle approach to this dilemma seems like the right way to go... do YOU have any extra advice for Corrina? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 14 May 2018

LIFESKILLS: MINDFULNESS MADE EASY!

Regular blogger Laura has some tips to help us stay mindful in the most stressful of times... take a look at her suggestions!

Laura says:
Everyone is talking about mindfulness these days. What is it? I suppose it is a kind of meditation without sitting cross-legged and listening to wind chime music! It is about staying ‘in the moment’ and living your life to the full, feeling connected and sometimes letting your mind go blank. It can help us stay serene and calm when the world around us is going crazy, so why not give it a try?

- Smile!
Smiling is the number one way to make yourself feel better. Let your muscles relax and chase the frown away, take some deep breaths and smile. You’ll feel the stress levels dropping and notice that others are smiling back!

- Sole survivors!
Take your shoes and socks off and reconnect to the earth beneath your feet. (Best on a warm day and on tidy grass!) Be aware of the texture of the grass - or the carpet, or the floorboards! Stand still and imagine your feet sending roots down into the earth!

- Learn something new!
Try learning a new language, bake some biscuits, learn to salsa or knit... it’s a great experience to go back to being a beginner again. You open yourself up to the lessons, and get fully absorbed in what you’re doing too. And at the end of it you’ll have a new hobby!

- Touching time!
Let your fingers notice the textures of your clothes, of the carpet, the work surfaces, the floor. Is it warm? Cold? Soft? Rough? Stop every now and then to really notice these things!

- Hot chocolate mindfulness!
My favourite one! Make yourself a hot chocolate and make a ceremony out of it, like the Japanese do with tea. Choose the right cup, boil the kettle, add the hot chocolate, stir in sugar or honey or spices if required or maybe add squirty cream. Don’t let anything distract you. Then sit down quietly and enjoy drinking it... notice the taste and the sensations. Mmm!

Mindfulness is switching on to noticing the world around you, and finding little moments of calm in it. We could all do with some of that!

Cathy says:
Brilliant piece, Laura! I practice mindfulness and it really helps with day-to-day stresses. Have YOU tried mindfulness before? Let us know what you think in the COMMENTS SECTION.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

MY HERO: ROSA PARKS

Reader Charli shares why Rosa Parks is such an inspiration to her, and should be to everyone!

Sometimes the simplest of actions can speak louder than a thousand words.

1st of December, 1955. Montgomery, Alabama. After a long day at work, a young woman by the name of Rosa Parks simply refused to give up her seat to a white man. This was one of the most courageous acts of the civil rights movement. It sparked the Montgomery boycott and countless other efforts to end segregation.

Rosa Parks was a seamstress who had recently joined the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the NAACP. It was here she was inspired and given strength to stand up for her rights. She wasn’t just physically tired after a hard days work. She was tired of giving in to white people.

Three of the other black passengers on Rosa’s bus complied with the driver because it was the law, but Rosa refused and remained seated. The driver demanded, "Why don't you stand up?" to which Rosa replied, "I don't think I should have to stand up.” She was immediately arrested.

In the following weeks, a mass Montgomery bus boycott was organised in response to this injustice. On the morning of December 5, a group of Civil Rights activists gathered by the Mt. Zion Church in Montgomery to discuss strategies and determined that their proposed boycott required a new organisation and strong leadership. Thus they started the Montgomery Improvement Association, electing newcomer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. They believed that Rosa Parks' case provided a perfect opportunity create real change.

Despite Parks’ becoming a symbol for the civil rights movement - referred to as the ‘mother of the Civil Rights movement’ - the following months after her arrest were awful. She and her husband lost their jobs and were forced to move in search of work. They eventually settled and found work in in Detroit, where she remained an active member of the NAACP.

She is my biggest inspiration because her defiance was so simple, so elegant. She had just had enough.

Cathy says:
Rosa is one of my heroes also... when I first heard her story I just couldn't believe that the front seats of American buses had once been reserved for white people only. Rosa's bravery changed things for the better, but we must always take a stand against racism and inequality, wherever and whoever we are. Who are YOUR heroes? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 11 May 2018

ONCE A WRITER, ALWAYS A WRITER...

Grown up reader Katelynn shares how CC inspired her to write her own book when she thirteen...


Katelynn says:
I first met Cathy Cassidy when I came to a book signing in Bluewater Waterstones in 2010. While there, I got a photo of us, and printed it on a canvas, which is still hanging up in my room to this very day. I then also met Cathy again when she came to Worthing for the first time, which I think was in  2011. I think it was 2011. I remember asking her to sign every single one of my books, because I had brought them ALL along with me. From DIZZY, right through to MARSHMALLOW SKYE. I can still remember the embarrassment I had on my face when I was holding up a big line of other teenage girls in Waterstones.

I am twenty one years old now and a university student, and I still love CC books! I have all of them, and  I'm halfway through LOVE FROM LEXIE right now. I’ve always loved CC books, and I would really love to meet her again one day!

I have always loved to write stories, practically since I was about seven years old. I remember that I did write a book once, during year nine… so I would have been about thirteen or fourteen years old back then. I counted how many pages it was on word, and I think it got up to 100 A4 word document pages. Obviously the grammar wouldn’t have been correct, or the layout; and maybe most of it might not have linked perfectly together or made any sense, but I really did enjoy writing it.

I do still occasionally write, on my iPhone application called WattPad, but these are mainly fan fictions about bands. I would love to learn what it takes to be able to write a good book, because back when I was writing on Word, my family and friends used to tell me I had some good strong talent at writing. I am in my second year of my BSc Honours in Animal Science now but I would love to get back into writing!  I have been busy with my coursework lately, but somehow, I found time to finish the rest of SWEET HONEY, and read LOOKING GLASS GIRL, in less than two days!

Cathy says:
I LOVE hearing from my grown up readers, thanks for sharing Katelynn and good luck with your writing! Do YOU have any stories to share? How was CC inspired YOU? COMMENT BELOW...

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

MAY BOOK CLUB: FROST HOLLOW HALL BY EMMA CARROLL

This month, reader Caitlin recommends the fab novel FROST HOLLOW HALL by Emma Carroll. Read on to find out what she thinks!

Caitlin says:
FROST HOLLOW HALL by Emma Carroll is an amazing and totally compelling read. Whilst reading this fabulous book (which is targeted at children or young adults aged ten and up) I was desperate to discover what happened next. FROST HOLLOW HALL is a book set in the Victorian era - winter 1881 to be exact! Throughout reading FROST HOLLOW HALL I couldn't help but grin at Will Potter, the local butchers boy... he was a great character, although not the main one!

This time-worthy read is actually about a courageous character named Tilly Higgins who was born into poverty and a working class family. On one winter's evening Will Potter dares her to ice skate on the frozen river that looms before Frost Hollow Hall. This may not seem like much of a dare - however, little does Tilly know - it is. The reason? Ever since Kit Barrington drowned whilst skating on that ice ten years ago, not one single soul has set foot on it since. But the dead don't scare Tilly Higgins!

During her time skating, the ice grows thin, so thin it cracks. Too far out to swim to dry land, she begins to drown until suddenly she's rescued by an angel. Although this is no angel, its a ghost. A very troubled ghost...

A gripping and entertaining read... I really recommend!

Cathy says:
Sounds like a book I'd love! Have YOU read FROST HOLLOW HALL? What did YOU think?

Sunday, 6 May 2018

KATIE: WHAT GINGERSNAPS MEANS TO ME...

The story of how CC book GINGERSNAPS helped shape reader Katie's early teens... and still resonates today!


I must have been twelve or thirteen years old when I discovered GINGERSNAPS. I was a year into secondary school and it was not a good time for me. All through primary school and secondary school I endured years of bullying. I didn’t fit in with a crowd. I was the odd one out, the kid who chose books over fashionable clothes and makeup and made friends with the teachers. And when I did find one friend I thought would help me through the bullying, she chose to follow the popular girls instead. But what got me was how alike my story was to the book. 

When I first read GINGERSNAPS I remember I couldn’t put it down. I read it in one day - I stayed up until 3am and at the end I cried so hard my lungs felt like they’d collapse. I would carry the book around with me at school and when I’d get tormented I would hide in the library or the toilets and read your book over and over. I felt everything Ginger was feeling to the point where I felt like she was the friend I never had. I became very depressed as a young teenager, reading GINGERSNAPS helped me get through times when I thought I wouldn’t make it out of that dark hole the bullies had dug for me. Your book helped me learn to stay true to myself even when I feared I wouldn’t be accepted. This book gave me hope. Now, roughly ten years on, I still read GINGERSNAPS and feel so grateful for it. And to my friends, like Emily and Sam who I know will always be there for me and love me for who I am. I do believe this book is one of the reasons I’m still here today.

A few days ago I decided to get a tattoo of the fox from GINGERSNAPS. The idea is based on the last page of the book when Ginger realises there are some things Shannon would never be able to comprehend but that that’s OK. For me, that signifies everything about me that the bullies in this world will never understand and how that it is OK. The fox to me means strength, individuality and courage to be different. On page 60, CC writes about how foxes are hunted by humans, torn apart, and that is exactly how bullying feels; you’re being hunted, torn apart and every bit of happiness in you is destroyed. I’ve always been an animal activist, and vegan for four years, so the fox also has that meaning to me. 

I’d like to add that for anyone going through bullying that it’ll be OK. I know it feels like the world around you is crashing right now and you don’t know if you can survive but you can and you will. It will pass and you’ll be stronger for it. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has struggled with friendships, bullying and with their own identity - for anyone who is struggling to find their place in this world. GINGERSNAPS will stay with me forever; I will pass the book on to my children one day.

Cathy says:
Bullying is something I feel very strongly about - it is sadly still all too common in schools across the UK. Reading is a great way to not feel so alone in times like these. Thanks, Katie and keep being fab!! Do YOU have a fave book that helped you through tough times? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Saturday, 5 May 2018

YOUR STARS FOR MAY!

Here once more with your star readings for May, Skye Tanberry reveals all! 

TAURUS: Apr 21 - May 20
Let yourself be energised by the full moon. Cast aside any doubts and just let yourself be free this month. You may find a love interest that you weren’t necessarily looking for… but don’t worry, no need to change anything. Just keep being you!

GEMINI: May 21 - Jun 20
You have a lot of creative energy this month, but you are not sure how to spend it! It could be that the best way to use this powerful urge is through exercise; clear away the cobwebs! Aligning your thoughts is a great way to gain lucidity.

CANCER: Jun 21 - Jul 21
It seems you are in for a productive yet solitary month; it's not that you'll be lonely, but you will be in a fierce and independent streak, helping you achieve your goals without relying on anyone else. This is a good chance to push yourself to new heights.

LEO: Jul 22 - Aug 21
Time for a spring clean? It's been a long time coming, but the sunshine has arrived! A good clear-out of your room may in turn lead to a clearer head and brighter outlook. A fresh leap into spring! You social life will begin to sparkle this month, so make sure you look after your friends.

VIRGO: Aug 22 - Sept 21
Let the breeze tickle through your hair and the grass through your toes and stretch out into the sun.  You’ve had a lot on your plate recently but don’t be afraid to just take it easy this month. Give something back and reward yourself.

LIBRA: Sept 22 - Oct 22
You’ve felt quite alone recently but that may change for good this month, with the arrival of someone new! To begin with there may be some friction but try to welcome them with an open mind. You are more similar than you may think!

SCORPIO: Oct 23 - Nov 21
You're slightly more emotional this month so try to be aware of what is affecting you. Make more of a conscious effort to react fairly and soundly. If things become heated with a family member, take the higher ground. Make an effort to peacefully repair the damage.

SAGITTARIUS: Nov 22 - Dec 21
Listen to your dreams, they are our minds way of making sense of the world around us. Keeping a dream journal can often help to guide us through our daily lives. You hold the answer within yourself - you just need to decode it!

CAPRICORN: Dec 22 - Jan 19
You are bursting with ideas but unsure how to accomplish them! Don't be afraid of asking for input from friends or family members. We are strongest when we work together, so using everyone’s individual strengths may be a sure way to achieve what you want!

AQUARIUS: Jan 20 - Feb 18
School/work is tough right now, and you have a lot of pressure from all angles. Try to remain calm and collected. A good way to ensure a sound mind is to meditate. Give yourself a 15 minute break from the world around you just to breathe. This may have astounding results!

PISCES: Feb 19 - Mar 20
A change in a relationship may come to light this month. An acquaintance turning into a friend? A friend into a love interest? Whatever the situation, embrace it and take it slowly. Stay true to who you are but be open-minded and thoughtful.

ARIES: Mar 21 - Apr 20
You are strong this month, you have an effect on people which goes way beyond what you may imagine! Do not abuse this power. True strength is kindness. Let others in, share your ideas and activities and you will end up with a bright, sparkling social life.

Cathy says:
Mine is spot on!! Spooky! Do YOUR predictions ring true for you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

THE LITTLE THINGS I LOVE...

It's the little things in life... we asked readers what their fave simple pleasures were. Here's what they said!

Joss says:
I keep a journal. Even if I just write one sentence in it every night, I feel all the worries and hassles of the day drop away. Usually, I write a LOT more than just that, though. It's a way of getting my feelings out while still feeling safe and it helps me to keep things in perspective. I like to think I will enjoy reading through my journals in ten or twenty years time!

Evie says:
A family sized bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk! I’m not saying I eat it all at once, but just the sight of it makes me happy and that taste is sheer bliss.

Kate says:
A bubble bath and a book to read while I soak... as long as I don’t drop it in the water!

Heather says:
Clean sheets, new pyjamas and a mug of hot chocolate... sipped while curled up in bed with the fairy lights on!

Jen says:
Swimming... it’s my favourite way to let go of the stresses and set the world to rights.

Carole says:
Curling up with a Cathy Cassidy book when it’s cold outside and the wind is howling...

Millie says:
Texting my best friend ALWAYS makes me feel better... she understands me better than anyone else I know.

Mel says:
Sounds mad, but practicing my piano exam pieces - it’s a part of my day now. I get a kick from knowing I’m working hard at my dream!

Carmen says:
One of my favourite things is when my sister Rosa and me do each other’s hair and make-up. It’s fun and soothing, and sometimes funny... and while we do it, we have some of our best and most honest talks.

Linzi says:
Watching the sun rise!

Zoe says:
Snuggling up with our pet dog Rollo... he’s the only one in the world who knows all my secrets!

Photo by the talented Nes Rine... thank you!

Cathy says:
Ahh... wonderful stuff! One of my fave simple pleasures is walking my dogs on a sunset beach! What is YOUR simple pleasure? COMMENT BELOW...

FIVE MINUTE FICTION: WAITRESS

Regular DREAMCATCHER blogger Emma shares a powerful piece of writing inspired by her own struggles... I can’t believe it’s been four yea...