Monday, 30 November 2015

ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN...

Readers share their horror stories involving broken mobile phones, iPads and laptops… accident prone? You? Well, just a little bit...

Jess says:
One day I was running a bath and also watching YouTube clips on my iPhone. I put the phone down on the edge of the bath and it just sort of slid into the water. I was really scared, but it was still working - I actually used it while I was in the bath, watching more You-Tube clips, but then the battery started getting warm and some of the buttons stopped working and then the screen went blank. We put it in dry rice because that's supposed to dry things out, but it didn't work, so I had to tell Mum and Dad. We took it back to the Apple shop but they couldn't fix it, so I ended up having to make do with an old phone for a few months. I've definitely learned a lesson from that! Well, maybe. I dropped my iPad in the bath a few months later…

Esme says:
I once dropped my Kindle on the utility room floor, and there's been a red line through the middle ever since…

Lelly says:
I dropped my mobile in the loo, and I knew the trick of putting it in a bowl of dry rice in a warm place. So I put it in a plastic dish of rice and wrapped it in a towel and put it on the woodburner. Five minutes later the whole thing went up in flames. I was NOT popular that day.

Scarlett says:
I had a bright bubblegum pink Blackberry that I loved. I was at Eco Club at school and we were clearing out the pond… I put my Blackberry in my top shirt pocket, forgot it was there and leaned over to clear some algae. Splash! It hit the water and sunk right to the bottom - luckily my brave friend rolled up a shirt sleeve and dug in, pulling out a brick first… random, I know… and finally my phone. It did work afterwards, but just for a short while. We had to put it in rice when we got home to try to get the moisture out of it!

Fouzia says:
My uncle gave me an iPod4 when I was ten. I loved it, but one day my brother dropped it from the top bunk and the display broke. He apologised about a million times but I was furious and very unforgiving (I regret that now!). My Dad got the iPod repaired, but soon after my sister dropped it and that was that, it was totally dead. Recently, my uncle gave me an engraved iPod 6 - he is the BEST! Moral learned… always forgive and forget!

Laura says:
I'm very good at damaging technology, especially computers. I wrecked a new laptop by knocking a mug of hot chocolate all over it in March. Luckily, I had insurance, and took it back to the store… but now whenever I go in they call me the Hot Chocolate Girl! A bit awkward! I had to choose a new computer and it didn't take long for me to break that as well… I somehow lost all the files and operating systems. It would still turn on, but there was nothing to load up, no Windows, no nothing. So yes… me and technology… not a good mix!

Violet says:
Mum dropped her phone in the toilet once. I was very upset because it had some irreplaceable videos on it, and I've never let her forget. I go through phones at quite a rate - the first one went through the washing machine. Not good! The second was pretty wrecked and held together by a hair bobble when I lost it completely. My third mysteriously stopped working - I think it got damp and mouldy - and the fourth just stopped charging. I'm on my fifth now! My brother's first Nintendo DS fell apart through overuse - the top screen stopped working and as he had a tender goodbye moment before throwing it away, the screen completely detached. Heartbreaking, truly, but not entirely my fault… a joint effort!

Jackie says:
My sister took my phone to record herself while going on a rollercoaster. When she went upside down I saw her hand let go of the phone and watched in horror as it fell. I tried looking for it but we never managed to find it, and my sister bought me a new one!

Cathy says:
I won't mention the coffee I spilt over my laptop keyboard mid-book… or the herb tea that wrecked the laptop after that… or the time the lid/screen detached and was hanging on by a thread. And NOBODY is allowed to mention the time I dropped my mobile in a puddle… Have YOU ever damaged a phone or laptop? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!


Sunday, 29 November 2015

SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY, OK?

Reader Zaila talks honestly about coming to terms with her sexuality and how she chose to tell friends and family…  

Zaila says:
Up until February of this year, I never gave too much thought to my sexuality… it just didn't cross my mind. Then I discovered I was gay. I had a small crush on another girl, and the realisation grew from there. It was a very slow and gradual process, but I knew it was true and felt amazed that I hadn't thought about it before. I kept all of this secret for two months, but in April I decided to open up to my family, to come out so that I could feel more secure in myself and finally be wholly proud of the person I am. Later that same day I came out to my close friends, and finally to my entire school community and classmates.

Both my mum and my close friends have been really supportive and brilliant, and both offered advice, support and help. My friends made it clear they would be there for me no matter what. Not all of my family know, however. My auntie, uncle and both sets of grandparents are clueless about my sexuality and although I plan to tell my auntie soon I will be far more cautious with my grandparents as I think they not be quite as understanding. They don't need to know right now, and my cousins are either quite distant or too young to properly understand.

After coming out at school, rumours flew like leaves in autumn. One of the more ironic stories was that I was dating my best friend - er, no! She's straight! Even now the rumours haven't fully died down and I'm not sure they ever will. Coming out was the best way for me to handle things, but not everyone will react well and I understand that others may make different choices. Wherever you may fall within the LGBT community, not everyone will be perfectly accepting, and that may be hard to cope with. If you are a lesbian or gay teen, remember that you are not alone. Never be afraid to be the person you are!

Cathy says:
Attitudes are changing towards the LGBT community and acceptance is much more the norm now, but I admire Zaila's honesty and courage in choosing to be open about her feelings. Have YOU ever had to tell friends and family something like this? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

MITCHIE: I WROTE A BOOK!

Reader Mitchie tells how she came to write and publish her own book at the age of just fifteen… impressed? Read on, you will be!

Mitchie says:
Writing a book takes time. Every day I would come home from school and write one thousand words. Some days were easier than others. Sometimes I'd sit at my computer for almost five hours, trying to figure out what to write and if any of it even made sense. Sometimes I would be done almost immediately and would jot down notes about the next couple of chapters because I was on such a roll. But now, a year and four months later, my book is finished, edited and available on Kindle for everyone to read.

NIGHTINGALE went through a lot of different versions before this one. Frentiss was once a girl called Hanna, and some characters didn't even exist. Much of the plot went through about four re-writes, but hey, that's sort of how it works. You have to want to write. You have to want to be able to finish and keep going, Like I said, it takes time! I hate planning stories with a passion - I always have a very undeveloped idea, or maybe an ending, but I never know how to put it all together. I came up with the idea for this story two years ago, but didn't start writing this version until last April. I finished at the beginning of August and it's only now being published. It's not easy, I can promise that. But I love it. That's partly why NIGHTINGALE exists now.

People had a huge input into the story. One of my best friends Lily would sit with me in History class and I'd ask for advice on the next chapter, or how to make a scene less clich├ęd. My friend Stevie named Frentiss and read early drafts of the book. My aunt is a published author and gave me tips and motivation throughout. Cathy Cassidy, a friend of my dad's, supported me and encouraged me not to give up. Even agents and publishers told me never to give up - a lot of people supported me and were interested in what I wanted to do. They helped me get there, and I will always be grateful for that.

You can download a copy of NIGHTINGALE here for just 99p… what are you waiting for?

Cathy says:
I've chatted with Mitchie a few times about writing, plotting and following your dreams, so I am thrilled to see that she's worked so hard to turn her dream into a reality! I'm off to download a copy of NIGHTINGALE right now… how about YOU? Have you ever tried to write a book? Or succeeded? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 27 November 2015

THE COOLEST NICKNAMES...

It doesn't matter how cool or classy our name might be, the impulse to tweak and change it is always going to be strong! We asked readers to tell us about their awesome nicknames and how they evolved!

Boo says:
My real name is Bethany but I have never been a girly girl… I am and always have been proud to be a geek. My parents called me Betty Boo when I was a toddler but as I got older and saw the real Betty Boo I knew that image wasn't me. Mum has always encouraged me to be myself, and I decided I would keep the nickname Boo… that had always seemed perfect to me. The nickname makes me proud because all my friends and loved ones use it… if someone calls me 'Bethany' I know I must be in trouble! Sometimes people laugh at my nickname but I don't care, because i like to be unique. I'll never give up my nickname - it's my identity, and I'm happy being me!

Blue says:
My nickname came about because I had blue hair and a new friend who had such an awful memory he couldn't remember my proper name. Well, to be fair, he remembered it pretty fast but he went on calling me Blue because it suited me… and not just because of my hair colour. He reckoned blue was a very decisive colour - something's either blue or it's not - and he thought that matched my nature. I kept the nickname because I liked how it sounded and it's just my name now… everyone calls me that apart from my family! I might even legally change it one day… I just have to decide on a new surname to go with it!

Phoebe Owl Eyes says:
My nickname is Phoebe Owl Eyes. It started off because I had to wear very strong prescription glasses from quite a young age, and as a result of this, a boy once told me I had eyes like an owl. I was eight at the time and it really upset me, but actually owls are beautiful and amazing and so as time went on I decided to claim the nickname. Over time, it has become a big part of who I am. I collect owls now and use the nickname lots… it's me! I'll always be Owl Eyes and I'm happy about that now… it's funny how a childish comment has ended up being an important part of my life!

Kiwi says:
My name is Kiramae but everyone calls me Kiwi. I love the nickname because it is unusual and quirky and that's the kind of person I am, so it fits! I don't know exactly how it came about. I know I came into school one day and my friend had seen a random picture of a kiwi and was talking about how perfect it was, and suddenly it was being used as a nickname for me! I guess that Kiramae is quite unusual to start with, but it's cool to have a name people have invented for you. Most nicknames are just the actual name shortened, but mine is different and I like that it's unique and original!

Cathy says:
Loving all these cool nickname stories! Do YOU have an unusual nickname? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

KEEP WEARING PURPLE, WEARING PURPLE...

Reader Deborah has been supporting Epilepsy Awareness month this November… find out how, and what you can do to help!


Deborah says:
I've been a supporter of Epilepsy Awareness for a few years now. I first became aware of epilepsy when my form tutor told us she had the condition - I was eager to find out more and was so sad to see how much it can affect people, children in particular. I found out about people like Haley who has Dravet Syndrome with severe tonic-clonic seizures whenever she falls asleep; this affects her family badly and also her learning. I was upset to see someone of my own age not having the opportunities and privileges I have because of epilepsy. I wanted to do what I could to help.

I discovered events like Purple Day - March 26th - and now Epilepsy Awareness which runs throughout November. This year on March 26th I wore purple and handed out awareness ribbons made of loom bands to people in my school choir. We travelled to three different schools to singer Easter songs and I was able to flash my bracelets and highlighted purple hair extensions as I sang. I've also uploaded two videos on Epilepsy Awareness and how people can help.

This year for awareness month I decided to do something different - for each day of the month I am taking a picture of something purple I have worn or seen and posting it onto Facebook. I'm calling the project Purple Pics for Epilepsy Awareness and linking it to the charity End Epilepsy on Facebook. I chose to help people with epilepsy because I want them to have normal lives and that a miracle treatment may yet be found. With the right effort and contribution to charities like End Epilepsy, we can work together to stop epilepsy from controlling people's lives. Raising awareness is a start, I am ready to do whatever it takes - are you?

Find out more about Purple Day…  http://www.purpleday.org/
End Epilepsy -  https://www.facebook.com/EndEpilepsy
YouTube (my stuff) -  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dztzfDJit-c
                                   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNQ3_0lqHVg
 YouTube (their stuff) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkdNCKcg1fw
                                       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChrNl6pKM3Y

Cathy says:
Like Deborah, I have strong feelings about this illness because it has affected people close to me. I love Deborah's idea of posting purple pictures for every day of November! Have YOU ever done something cool to support a charity? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

KATY: WHY AM I ALWAYS LEFT OUT?

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Katy has a question for Cherry Costello to unravel… will she have wise words to share?

Katy says:
There are thirteen girls in my tutor group, including me, so whenever we need to work with partners someone is left out… and it's always me. I'm either left alone or have to pair up with a boy, and when we have free time in tutor group I am alone too and have nobody to talk to. I have tried starting a conversation but my classmates ignore me, as if they can't even hear me. All of my friends are in a different tutor group, which doesn't help. In Year Seven and Eight I was fine and could talk to anyone, but this year I feel like an outsider. Please help!

Cherry says:
I have been an outsider too, so I understand how hurtful this kind of situation can be. Ideally, being with your friends would help… but that may not be possible, so it would be useful to know why the girls in your group are being so unfriendly. Can you talk to your form tutor and explain how you're feeling? He/she may be able to find out why there seems to be such hostility and where it stems from, and perhaps help to smooth down any misunderstandings. You're not asking for miracles, after all, just a friendly word now and then or permission to join in sometimes. Confidence is key, so work on building up your self esteem if you can - the Cathy Cassidy book LETTERS TO CATHY has some helpful sections on this. Join groups outside of class and widen your friendship group, too… this will help you to feel less alone. Remember that school is not forever, and that a class can change at any time… one new pupil could change everything for you, so never give up hope.

Cathy says:
A very difficult situation… do you agree with Cherry's advice? What would YOU add to help Katy handle things better? COMMENT BELOW to have your say! If YOU have a problem for one of the Chocolate Box sisters, email it to me via the email link on www.cathycassidy.com and mark it DREAMCATCHER PROBLEM...

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

DREAM A LITTLE DREAM...

For ninety minutes or so each night, we dream. All of us… almost every night… and the symbols and imagery in our dreams are a kind of universal language. Our guide to some of the more common dream themes - and what  they might signify!

WATER:
Water is thought to symbolise emotions. Is the water murky, turbulent, dangerous, peaceful or calm? Whatever it's like, the chances are your emotions are feeling that way too. Time to think about your feelings and make sure all is well...

HOUSE:
Dreaming of a house can represent the mind… if the house is orderly, attractive and clean, all is well; if the house is untidy, dirty or falling down, it may signify that some areas of your mental wellbeing have been neglected. Think about what the problem may be… and make a start on putting it right!

FALLING:
Dreams of falling may signify a strong sense that some aspect of your life is out of control… the fear this causes surfaces only in your dreams, but if you can identify the source you can try to put it right.

FLYING:
A dream of flying high can be exciting and awesome… and often reflects a surge of confidence and determination to achieve our goals. Harness that feeling in your waking hours, too!

BEING CHASED:
Dreams of being chased can be terrifying, but are very common. It is thought that the trigger for such dreams is not linked to the fear of being hunted down, but of what is actually chasing us… trying to work out what we might be running from in our everyday waking life is the key to sorting dreams like this.

BEING TRAPPED:
A dream or nightmare of being trapped in some way can symbolise an area of our waking life where we are in a situation that seems impossible to escape from, or are faced with a choice that is very hard to make.

Fabulous artwork by talented reader Rebecca… many thanks!

Cathy says:
Yikes… I used to have lots of terrifying falling nightmares as a small child… but now I hardly ever remember my dreams! Do YOU have vivid dreams? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 23 November 2015

IRMINA: FRIENDSHIP… THERE WILL BE BUMPS ALONG THE WAY

Reader Irmina was a finalist in the 2015 My Best Friend Rocks competition… which may just make her a bit of an expert on friendships! Read her insights on friendship…

Irmina says:
Friendship… such an easy word with just ten letters… but there is so much more to it! It's always a great feeling to know that there is someone who will always have your back, someone who will be there for you through thick and thin, through hard times and happy ones. I'll tell you about my friendships… I was born in India and had lots of friends there, but when I was just four I moved to London, not even knowing English. I made many new friends.

My first friend was called Ameerah, but there were many more. By Year Three, I was often chosen to take new pupils around the school and by Year Six I had so many friends I felt very confident and happy. My best friends at that point were Patricia and Brigita, but then came secondary school and all my friends were split up and went to different schools. This was a difficult time. I spent a lot of time with Brigita at that point and neglected Ameerah, but when Brigita and I quarrelled Ameerah was there for me.

When I saw the 2015 My Best Friend Rocks comp on Cathy's website, I made a poster and entered with Ameerah, and we were in the top five final pairs. We didn't win the overall award but it was wonderful to be there and be a part of all those girls embracing and celebrating all of our friendships. Amazing! Friendship is never easy, though, Ameerah and I do fall out sometimes, and we go through times when we are upset with each other. It happens! Sometimes, if a friendship isn't running smoothly I think I would be better off alone, but I know I need my friends! No matter what happens, with friendship there is always hope!

I wanted to share something interesting with you. Remember those friends I had back in India? They still remember me after ten years… and I had forgotten them! Even long ago friendships can be revived, and you can never have too many friends! Friendship is not easy - it comes with millions of happiness and some bumps along the way,but that's fine because it's how we get closer as friends. I think a true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else can only see your smile!

Cathy says:
Awwww… wise words indeed! Do YOU have a best friend who means the world to you, or do you prefer to be part of a big group? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

ROSA: MY SISTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER...

Reader Rosa writes about painful it can be to watch one of the people you love most in the world suffer from an eating disorder…

Rosa says:
My sister Jo is fifteen and I haven't seen her for three months. She is in hospital being treated for anorexia and the special unit she is staying in is almost 100 miles away, so although my mum and dad go to see her every weekend, I don't. And Mum says she wouldn't want me to see Jo at the moment, because she is so ill. I write to her, but she hasn't replied, and that hurts… I'm thirteen and all my life Jo has been my hero, and now she's so far away and she doesn't seem to remember me at all.

I hate her illness. Anorexia took my beautiful sister and ruined her, turned her into a person none of us even knew anymore. We tried to help but she was so clever and tricked us to go on hurting herself. Jo was very beautiful and always slim, and I didn't notice at first how obsessed she was getting with her size. I only know because I read her diary from last year, which makes me a bad person but I don't care because it had lots of entries about how how some boy had told her she could lose a few lbs and about how upset she was to have to buy a pair of size 10 jeans instead of an 8. She stopped eating and wrote about how she looked in the mirror and saw this huge, obese person looking back. When I found the diary I showed Mum, and that is how we found out really because up until then she had done a great job of covering it all up. Jo was so angry, though, and things haven't been the same for us since, but Mum says that one day when she's better she will thank me. I wish I believed that.

I suppose I wanted to write about Jo because it is very hard to be the little sister of someone who is trying to starve themselves to death. People say it is a sickness and I understand that, but Jo's sickness has destroyed everyone in the family. I hate it so much. I want my sister back. I want her happy and healthy and beautiful, not the skeleton girl she is now. She thinks she looks great, but she really doesn't.  Sometimes she looks like a little child, but a very sick one, and sometimes she's more like an old lady. In the middle of the night, I lie awake and think of her and wonder if she ever thinks of me, or if I am just the little sister with puppy fat she has left behind. Selfish, I know. Like I said, anorexia is destroying us all.

The powerful illustration for this feature was drawn by reader Courtney. Many thanks.

Names have been changed to protect identities.

If you want to talk to someone about an eating disorder, call Beat Youthline on 0345 634 7650.

Cathy says:
A heartbreaking post about how eating disorders can harm a whole family, not just the person with the illness. Sending love and support to Rosa and Jo and their family. Have YOU or someone you know struggled with eating issues? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more...

Saturday, 21 November 2015

BEST FOOT FORWARD!

Readers talk about their fave winter boots… how cool are they? 

Kym says:
I LOVE wearing DMs. Dr Marten boots were originally created by a doctor who injured his foot while on leave from Word War II, so they are very sturdy and comfortable and now come in a variety of designs. The newest collection have prints of the artwork of 18th century painter William Hogarth! Over the last few years I have started wearing DMs every day - I even bought a pair just to wear for school. They are expensive but they outlast most shoes - a friend of mine had a pair that lasted eighteen years!

Stacey says:
These are my current favourite boots… they are stunning Adidas x Jeremy Scott tall boy hi-tops, and were supposed to be £189 but I got them for a bargain £50! I fell in love with them the minute I saw them - they are as unique as I am! They also remind me of the Back To The Future movies! I love all things 80s retro and that's exactly what these bad boys screamed at me. They are the comfiest boots ever and have already had many adventures… they've seen multiple bands including Reel Big Fish last month and are brilliant for skanking the night away. I get quite a few odd looks when I'm wearing them, but that's OK 'cos I know the boots are different and awesome, just like me!

Violet says:
These are my second pair of New Rock boots - they're ankle height and have flame patterns on the toe and heel and metal accents on the sole. They were given to me by a friend last year… she got them from a charity shop for £25 - they're usually around £80 - because an eyelet on the inside sole is missing. They were a size too small for her and she wanted them to go to someone who would appreciate them, which I certainly do! They are actually a size too big for me, but that's nothing thick socks can't sort out. I love my boots because they look amazing and give a punky edge to whatever I'm wearing - that's a good thing! They're also pretty comfortable considering they're a little big and weigh as much as a small house due to all the metal details. I wear these boots all year 'round… who said boots were just for winter?

Cathy says:
Wow… three very different but equally awesome pairs of boots! I love! If I had to pick, I'd probably go for the Hogarth DMs… which ones would YOU choose? If these don't grab you, what style would you go for instead? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Friday, 20 November 2015

BETH: JU JITSU IS AWESOME!

Reader Beth shares her enthusiasm for the martial art of Ju Jitsu… could it be the perfect hobby for you too?

Beth says:
A hobby that I greatly enjoy is Ju Jitsu. Ju Jitsu is about learning self defence and it also teaches you fighting moves - it's also lots of fun! Over the past few months that I've been learning, I go to the dojo (the 'place of training') every Saturday and each time I go I learn something new. I wear a gi - a two piece white suit with loose trousers, a wraparound jacket and a cloth belt - and our dojo has a sort of uniform of two black stripes on the trouser legs. The belt is a different colour depending on what level you are at and there's a specific way to tie it which can actually take a LOT of practice! It's important to wear the uniform the correct way as this shows respect to the dojo.

When you start Ju Jitsu you begin with a red belt, and the highest belt you can achieve is the black belt. I am now learning different moves called the 'back strangle' and the 'front strangle' and also the 'hip throw'. This can be scary when you hit the mat! It's important to get the moves right so that you are protected when you fall, and you need to learn your right and left break-falls too. You have to practice these all the time as these moves help you to avoid injury. I look forward to Ju Jitsu every week, from practicing and perfecting to the sheer enjoyment of it!

I have Autism and for me, Ju Jitsu is a brilliant way to release built up emotions and build new social skills. I have a great teacher who is always encouraging, even when your move isn't perfect. His comments always show the positive side of what you are doing. In Ju Jitsu, your teacher is called 'Sensei' and helps you to develop your skills. This was never a hobby I imagined taking up but I absolutely love it and wish I had discovered it sooner. It's great to know that you can defend yourself, get fit and have fun while doing all of those things!

Cathy says:
I am ALMOST tempted… one day, maybe! Beth makes Ju Jitsu sound amazing, and her enthusiasm is definitely catching! Have YOU ever tried a martial art? Or do you have another hobby you'd like to tell us more about? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

EVIE: MY FAMILY ARE FALLING APART

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER and reader Evie has a heartbreaking question for Honey Tanberry… will you agree with her response?

Evie says:
I don't think you can help with this because I'm not sure anyone can, but I need to tell someone or I will go mad. My brother has just left home, and he is only fifteen and I am worried sick about him. He has gone to live with a friend's family because the rows at home have been too extreme, the last time he threw a chair at a glass door because he was so angry and my dad threatened to throw him out. My brother said he would save him the trouble and went, and he has been away for a week now and I am scared because who will look out for him now? The trouble is because my brother is smoking, and not just cigarettes, and my dad is very strict and is so, so upset. They just keep clashing. Mum says to give my brother a chance to calm down but I am scared he will get into more trouble now he isn't living with us. I have nightmares about it, that the police will come to our door and tell us he has died. Dad won't talk about it and Mum keeps telling me to be patient, but I'm worried sick.

Honey says:
First of all, if you're not in touch with your brother I suggest trying to get a message to him. If you could meet up I think you'd feel more reassured that he's OK and stop imagining the worst. His friends' family are giving him a safe place to stay and it does sound as though he will come home again soon… if some kind of truce can be arranged between him and your dad. A family mediator, a social worker or even a trusted teacher may be able to help with this. I suspect your dad is shocked and scared at your brother's behaviour, but his anger is pushing your brother away… you all need help and support to get through this difficult time. Talk to a trusted teacher and explain what's happening - you need some support, too. Speaking out may help provide the back up your family needs right now and help work a way towards some kind of compromise. You're right, there are no easy answers, but I think your family clearly care very much and that is a strong base to build on for putting the pieces back together. Stay strong and good luck.

Cathy says:
Honey is right, there may not be any instant answers here, but Evie needs to get some support for herself and her family. Family splits like this one can be scary, but they are often temporary… and Evie's mum may be right that having some cooling down time is what is needed most. COMMENT BELOW to add your advice, or send your own problem in through the email link on www.cathycassidy.com and mark it DREAMCATCHER PROBLEM.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

DON'T PICK ON ME...

Why do people bully - and how can we make sure we're not victims? Readers share their best advice on staying out of the firing line…

Corrine says:
I think that bullies target people they think are weak or vulnerable in some way. I know I was picked on for a few months when I started a new primary school two years ago, but once I made good friends the teasing faded away. I have seen the same pattern at secondary school. If I have to be around people I know to be bullies, I try to act confident, even if it is just an act, and most of the time they leave me alone.

Beth says:
I was bullied by some boys from our street for a while, when I first got glasses. It really bugged me, because I don't see myself as a victim and I could see the boys were just trying to make themselves look big. One day I'd had enough and yelled a few things back at them, calling them cowards for picking on someone so much younger… they laughed it off, but they haven't bothered me again.

Tania says:
A true bully doesn't need an excuse, they just get a kick from making people feel bad. Bullies targeted my friend because she had what they thought was a posh accent - in fact, it was just a southern accent, not posh at all. We went straight to the teachers and the bullying stopped, but those kids are still in our school so we hang around in a group whenever we can, bullies are cowards and unlikely to pick on a group of kids.

Lucy says:
Some boys in my class were teasing me about my new braces, and someone told my brother who is two years older. He cornered the bullies and told them that if they didn't leave me alone he'd make their lives a misery. Instant result… no more bullies.

Mairi says:
Sometimes, standing up to a bully works but not always. I've had a situation where it just made things worse and things got physical. Be careful… bullies are bad news, and talking to a teacher is the safest and fastest way of dealing with them.

Kathryn says:
I had to change schools because of a bullying situation and I was terrified it would happen in my new school. I went to counselling for six months and my counsellor helped me to rebuild my self-esteem and confidence. It was little things too, like having a confident posture and way of walking, and learning how not to react so easily to teasing. I learned to laugh at myself but also to be assertive and learn when things were going too far. I would say it has changed my life. I wish I had known these things when I was thirteen.

Jade says:
I have been lucky not to be bullied, but I would say that speaking out is the best way to stop a bullying situation. Some bullies might leave you alone if you ignore them or stand up to them, but what if they just move on to find new victims? Unless you speak out the cycle of bullying won't stop.

Picture posed by reader Emily - thank you for the fab and atmospheric picture!

Cathy says:

Some very interesting advice here. I agree with Jade, Mairi and Tania that telling an adult is often the fastest way to stop a bully, but having good self-confidence, as described by Kathryn, is also important.  How would YOU advise readers to avoid being bullied? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 16 November 2015

THE INTERNET - COULD YOU TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT?

More readers tell us about how they use the internet, and why - or why not - they're hooked on it!

Sarah says:
Well, I don't think my mum would ever let me go out without my phone, because she has a habit of texting me to see if I'm OK about twenty times a day! If I had to live without my phone, I'd basically have no life. My phone keeps me in touch with friends and family, holds most of my college information, important numbers, dates… as for the internet, I've learnt most of my general knowledge from it… Google is a lifesaver. I'm not really sure what I DON'T use my phone for. If anyone tried to take my phone away I'd suffer real psychological distress!

Charlotte says:
I'm not really addicted - well, maybe I am when it comes to fanfiction, or keeping up with the latest Marvel news. I occasionally post on Instagram and only look at Facebook to see what my favourite celebs post, or to see if my air cadet squadron has changed the program… it's just a way to keep up to date with stuff. I couldn't live without my phone as it's the main way I communicate with friends and family, especially my mum, although I don't see the point in Snapchat. I know a good few people who are addicted to the internet, but I think I have a healthy balance…

Fouzia says:
I'm addicted to Facebook as I get to chat to my old mates from the past. Leaving them was the hardest thing ever, because we grew up together and my bestie and I had been together since second grade. They mean a lot to me, and we have a group chat we use quite a lot. I also love the Cathy cassidy Facebook page and DREAMCATCHER! I love Instagram and Twitter too because you can find out the truth behind the rumours on people's official accounts. Yup, I love it, but I also love to log out and go read a book or play with my siblings…

Holly says:
I went on holiday for a month in the summer and had no signal or wifi. I was really grumpy for the first few days, but after that things got better. I began to see that practically my whole life revolves around my phone, and I didn't like that feeling. I have cut back a bit now, and I am much more aware of the time I spend on my phone.

Laura says:
My family are pretty strict on things like mobile phones, internet and technology. My sister got a mobile when she was fourteen, so I still have two years to go… the idea is that she can use it to keep my parents informed when she is out with friends. We are home schooled, so I don't feel any pressure from friends, but I am a bit envious sometimes of friends who use the internet a lot. My parents use it, but only for set things - they want us to learn through doing things, not just from the net. We don't even have a TV, but I admit that when I go to my friend's house I get hooked on the TV almost instantly… I can see how it would be addictive. Computer games too… I don't really like them, but if you start to play you do get hooked. I think my family have tried to give us a more 'natural' start in life, but I expect that when I am older and want to go to university, all of those things will become part of my life. I hope I won't become addicted, though.

Photos posed by model Caitlin...

Cathy says:
Could YOU go without the internet for a day? A week? A month? Or would it be the end of the world? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

PERIODS DON'T HAVE TO BE A PAIN...

Not everyone gets period pain, and with luck you will escape the cramps that some girls get in the first day or two of period time. But what if you do get pain? I used to, and sometimes had to take time off school because of it; not good. Readers share their top tips for beating cramps at period time… I wish I'd known some of these tips!

Lara says:
It sounds odd, but swimming really helps me. It's my favourite exercise so I use tampons when I have my period so I can still swim, but I do get cramps when my period starts. The last thing I feel like doing is getting in the water, but if I can make myself do it, I always find that after five or six lengths the pain has gone and I am really relaxed.

Jennie says:
Camomile tea and a hot water bottle and a cheesy DVD to take my mind off it… and sometimes a painkiller if that doesn't work.

Deborah says: 
Paracetamol and sugar - chocolate is best! Good company helps too, it can be a great distraction!

Amy says:
Take painkillers, move around and drink lots of water but stay off the caffeine! Let yourself cry if you're feeling wobbly - it's just your hormones. Eating dark chocolate can help - it's allowed at this time of month! Remember, you are going through this for the sake of mankind and the human population, and that's pretty darn cool!

Deanna says:
If you struggle with cramps, see a doctor - they have lots of ways to help ease the pain. Why suffer? For me, painkillers no longer work so my mum gives me a reflexology massage to relax the muscles, which helps a lot.

Sarah says:
I agree with Deanna… I went to the GP as my periods were awful and I was also anaemic. I was put on a version of the pill to straighten them out and decrease the pain, and it has made such a difference.

Autumn says:
Chocolate. Sanitary pads. Good book. Make yourself a nest in the duvet with these things within easy reach. If you get bad headaches like me (I don't even know how that's connected - hormones or something?) get some of those sticky cooling strips chemists sell - they're blue and you stick 'em on to ease your headache and make you look very silly. A girl I knew reckoned drinking milk helped with her cramps. I can't verify that, but hot chocolate with whipped cream helps with mine!

Davina says:
Yoga is what helps me. I normally hate exercising but when my period comes, I am addicted to yoga! I've noticed that caffeine makes the pain worse, so I avoid it now. If you have a cat, snuggle up because when they purr it really seems to help! A friend told me a cat's purr has healing frequencies… and they're cuddly, too!

Photos posed by model Tia - huge thanks for your help, Tia!

Cathy says:
Chocolate, camomile tea, yoga, swimming, hot water bottles, good books, cats, hot choc, massage… these are remedies I like! If all else fails, paracetamol and a trip to the doctors should sort things. COMMENT BELOW to tell us YOUR top tips for chasing away the cramps...

Thursday, 12 November 2015

WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE COLOUR?

Check out our guide and see what YOUR favourite colour says about YOU…

RED:
If your favourite colour is red, you are likely to be extrovert, optimistic, brave and confident. You are energetic and sporty and love to be the centre of attention, often being the focal point of your friendship group. You are ambitious, determined and crave success - second best will never be good enough for you. You're not afraid to push the boundaries and discover new things, and you are willing to work to turn your dreams into reality. Just be careful of your temper… you can be quick to anger and need to learn how to think before you speak.

YELLOW:
Cheerful, happy and fun to be with, you are also creative and very much an ideas person. Impulsive and quick to judge, you can also be very anxious - a perfectionist who can be very hard on herself. You're very independent and prefer a small group of close friends to being part of a big gang. You feel things strongly but often keep your emotions hidden, and you're usually flexible and able to think on your feet. You are clever and have a good general knowledge, enjoying quizzes, crosswords and debates.
GREEN:
Nature-loving and practical, you are kind, caring and compassionate… great in any crisis, because you are able to stay calm and unflappable even when others go into panic mode! You're smart and quick to learn, and have high moral standards. You enjoy community or charity work and like to belong to groups or clubs of other like-minded people. You like to be accepted and appreciated, but do not need praise or rewards… you just like to belong, and to help right wrongs whenever you see injustice. You wear your heart on your sleeve and are quick to love, but are more of a gentle romantic than a passionate high achiever. Friends often seek you out for advice and support - you're one of life's natural agony aunts!

ORANGE: 
If orange is your favourite colour you are a real extrovert with a flamboyant streak… you thrive on human contact and love parties and gatherings of all kinds. You're usually the centre of attention, too, and that's just the way you like it! Naturally light-hearted and happy, you never take things too seriously but can seem a little show-offy to those who don't know you well. You're sporty and outdoorsy and love taking risks - your high energy levels keep you on the go, pushing the boundaries to find new adventures. You're rarely patient but have the ability to bounce back quickly from most setbacks, and friends love your charm and enthusiasm for life!

BLUE:
Reliable, trustworthy and responsible, you take a while to trust others and sometimes feel unsure in new situations. You love peace and harmony and hate falling out with friends… although you may look confident and capable, often you hide your insecurities and bite your tongue to avoid disagreements. Even-tempered most of the time, you can be seen as cold by those who don't know you well, and prefer to work behind the scenes rather than take a front row role. You are sensitive and caring, and want to help others; you make a loyal friend and always have time for those you love. Spiritual and/ or religious, you have a thirst for knowledge and a need to bring order and calm to the world around you.

PURPLE:
If you're drawn to this colour, you are likely to be compassionate, caring, sensitive and thoughtful - you love to be needed. You're a free spirit with a gentle soul and a natural sense of calm, never afraid to be individual or to stand out from the crowd. Unconventional and creative, you live for your imagination and sometimes fall down on the more practical aspects of life. Often intuitive, you are drawn to the spiritual side of life and sense things that others do not even notice. You dream big and are capable of great success in life, combining dreams and ambition. Be careful not to take on too much, and try not to be late for everything… other people's time matters, too, you know!

Cathy says:
Wow… so interesting! My favourite colour is moss green, but I can see aspects of my personality in purple and even yellow (a colour I dislike quite strongly!). Does YOUR fave colour reflect your personality? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

LEAH: I'VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE...

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Leah has a dilemma for Honey Tanberry to solve…

Leah says:
I have made the biggest mistake of my life and I don't know how to fix it. I left school in the summer after taking my GCSEs and begged to be allowed to go to the big Sixth Form College in town. I am taking French, History and English A levels. The problem is, I hate it. I hate the subjects I'm doing, apart from English, I hate the teachers who seem fake and try too hard to be everyone's mate, and I haven't made proper friends. Everyone seems loads more grown up than me and I find it very hard to concentrate on my work. I think I'd rather be back at my old school's Sixth Form and I would like to change two of my A Level choices to Drama and Music. I was off college with a cold last week and I really, really don't want to go back. How can I admit I'm unhappy when I tried so hard to convince my parents that this was the right move for me? They wanted me to study Music and I opted for French because I thought it would look better on my uni application, but I am not enjoying the subject at all.

Honey says:
You're not alone… many young people take a while to work out what they should be studying, and which styles of teaching suits them best. It's better to suss your mistake now than to push on and find yourself stuck with subjects you hate! You say you can't tell your parents how miserable you are, but I think you know you HAVE to. OK, so it may feel embarrassing, but they will understand and they can help you to change things. They wanted you to study Music, so they will be on your side over that. You have to be totally honest with them, and ask them to contact your old school and see if they'll let you rejoin. It is possible… one of my best friends joined the Sixth Form two months into the course. The important thing is to act now, because the longer you leave it the more coursework you will miss from Drama and Music. Sometimes, we DO make mistakes in life - I know, I've made more than most people! It's normal, really, as long as we learn from them! Be honest and admit you've messed up - and get the help you need to sort this all out. Your future is at stake… and that's something you NEED to get right, I promise you. Good luck!

Cathy says:
I agree with Honey… we all make mistakes, and we change and evolve, too. It takes courage to admit that you want to change things, but if Leah acts swiftly she should be OK. Do YOU agree with Honey? Have YOU ever made the wrong decision and lived to regret it? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

KIRAMAE: DRAMA CHANGED MY LIFE!

What's YOUR fave subject at school? Reader Kiramae tells us why drama is top of the list for her… and how it has changed her life!

Kiramae says:
I've been doing drama every year at middle school and can honestly say it has changed my life. I have always wanted to be an actress, but I was really shy. When I started studying drama, I found a whole new me - someone who wasn't shy at all! Drama has boosted my confidence - it has helped me see that whoever you are, you won't be judged, because all of us have a story. I love to be able to step into someone else's shoes - see life through a whole different character's eyes, and really get away from reality. It's great!

We put on plays regularly and I have mainly had quite small parts - but this year I got one of the mains!  I was SO excited! We've done Alice in Wonderland, A Christmas Carol and lots more. Even having a small part is OK… you are in the play and of course there's less stress involved!

In a normal lesson, we have a few improvisation games to loosen us up. In one of them, 'Knock Knock,' we pretend that someone new has arrived at our house and act how that will pan out. After that, we may do a piece of acting based on a picture, word, letter, paragraph or object… it's a lot of fun! Drama is a new world where you can really let loose and have fun. I advise anyone who feels shy and quiet to give it a go because it may help you to find the 'real' you, as I did! It may take days, it may take months… but it's worth the wait!

I also made a good friend in drama - you never know! I still want to be an actress and an entertainer and I am planning to take drama as a GCSE subject once I move from middle to high school. I've already picked out my high school - the one with the best drama facilities! I can't wait. I don't think I am ever going to give up drama… it's too much fun! My drama teacher is leaving soon, and I feel very sad about that, but I am determined to keep on doing my best no matter what happens!

Cathy says:
Oh, I am LOVING Kiramae's enthusiasm! Do YOU have a favourite subject at school? COMMENT BELOW to tell us more… you may end up being featured on DREAMCATCHER!

Monday, 9 November 2015

YOUR STARS FOR NOVEMBER...

Horoscope time again… Skye has been consulting the stars to help predict your fortunes for November. Will she get it right for you? Read on and see for yourself!

SAGITTARIUS:
An exciting month ahead, and one that holds more than its fair share of surprises! You have turned some aspects of your life around a little in recent weeks, and your new, more positive attitude will pay off. Keep working hard and take whatever opportunities come your way… your efforts have not gone un-noticed and big rewards could be just around the corner!

CAPRICORN:
A few setbacks have been holding you back lately, but this run of bad luck is almost over… adventure is on the cards for November! This could be something big, like an unexpected trip or a chance to shine, or perhaps just the chance for you to shake you and your friends out of your everyday routine and do something special. Keep your eyes open… and when you see adventure, grab it with both hands!

AQUARIUS:
Just lately you have been working quietly to help and support friends and family, trying to navigate the sometimes stormy seas and keep life running smoothly. It's time now to take some time out for yourself… you rarely put yourself first, but you need to right now, or sapped energy and emotions will begin to pull you down. Stand up for yourself and others will give YOU the support you need.

PISCES:
Something you've been working on for a while is about to take shape… whether that's a creative plan, a friendship plan, a romance or something else completely, now is the time! Dream big and start taking steps to put your plans in motion… the stars are on your side!

ARIES:
If schoolwork pressures, home commitments or even rotten wintry weather are cramping your style right now, take action! You work best when you are able to be active and sporty, and if outdoor sports are taking a backseat right now, try something different - swimming, yoga or Tai-Chi are all fun and calming and can be fitted around your usual routine. Give something new a try!

TAURUS:
If parent trouble is clouding your life just now, think about how best to tackle it. Strops and tantrums don't go down well, but calm, sensible discussion can break down barriers and change opinions even when parents seem dead set against something. Just don't turn the discussion into a blackmail session or a guilt trip!

GEMINI:
Christmas starts in November for you… the excitement levels are probably sky high already, and you're wondering why your friends are rolling their eyes at your enthusiasm! Don't let others burst your bubble - enthusiasm is a great quality to have! Harness that Christmas spirit and get your shopping and planning done now so that you have the whole of December free to party!

CANCER:
Something may be niggling at you lately and making you feel a little bit sad… instead of ignoring it, which is your usual tactic, try tackling it openly. If you've argued with someone, apologise and make it right; if school work is slipping, put in more effort; if it's a bigger problem, talk to a trusted teacher or parent and get some adult support to help you through. Sometimes, talking really can help.

LEO:
There have been plenty of changes over the last few months in your life… and that's OK. Sometimes, change is good! Take control of life again and steer it in the direction you want it to go… and don't be afraid to make a few changes of your own!

VIRGO:
If you're certain that the boy you're crushing on doesn't even know you exist, think again… romance is in the stars. Someone, somewhere, is thinking about you… and falling for your gentle ways and quirky personality. It could be your crush or it could be someone else completely, and only you know if you are looking for love right now… but hey, isn't it nice to know someone cares?

SCORPIO:
People say you have a sting in your tail, but you've been feeling vulnerable lately… and extra sensitive to the things others say and do. Rather than retreating behind a hard shell, as you have done in the past, try acting confident and cool, as if you don't care… the confidence may rub off and become real. Feeling sad is never good, but it's a part of life… keep smiling and you will get through!

LIBRA:
It's ironic that your sign is the scales, because life has been feeling a little unbalanced lately. Too much school work? Too much fun? Overwhelmed by family stresses or friendship worries? You know what you have to do to get the balance right again, but it will take time… write down a plan of how to change things and start taking small steps. You'll get there!

Cathy says:
Ooh… Skye's predictions are spot on for me - again! How about YOU? Do you believe in horoscope predictions or are they just a bit of fun? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

QUINN: DEPRESSION IS LIKE A GLASS COFFIN...

Reader Quinn talks honestly about how social anxiety and depression have shaped her life…

Quinn says:
I struggle with anxiety issues… they make it very hard for me to be outside by myself or with people I don't know well… and I'm not a kid anymore, so you can imagine it gets a  but awkward having to take your mother everywhere. I can't eat in front of anyone who isn't in my family or a close friend, which is a pain, and I can't make or maintain eye contact. Because of this, when I go out I spend the whole time worrying about what others think of me. In some ways I don't care, but I live in fear of embarrassing myself, saying something stupid or mishearing something, so I stay quiet when I am out and avoid leaving the house as much as possible.

I have depression too, and that makes me feel empty and lost most of the time. Depression is like a glass coffin - it keeps you cut off from everyone around you, but they can see you so they assume you're fine. On good days, I can get up and interact with people I know. On bad days, I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling with no motivation to get up, wash, talk or even feed myself. This makes me think I am lazy and stupid, which makes me hate myself and that doesn't help, as you can imagine. Everything seems kind of grey and muted and pointless, and I don't feel like I am actually part of the world. I look at people smiling and laughing and being happy and I try to be happy too, but I just feel empty. I make the effort to pretend to be happy, and that's one thing I can say for myself… I am a great actress.

To help with these issues I have a psychiatrist, a community psychiatric nurse and a support worker. I take an anti-depressant med which made me feel numb to begin with… then it began to help and I felt normal, but now it is starting to lose effect. The psychiatrist deals with the medication side of things and my CPN and support worker mostly just talk and sometimes try to desensitise me to social situations. Yesterday my support worker got me to join a drop-in group which was OK, and today my CPN took me to Costa as a way of getting me out and about again. I couldn't eat my food and only managed a few sips of drink, so I probably have a way to go there. I don't like being put in situations that make me uncomfortable, even though I know it's for my own good. I want to feel better, and that's not going to happen if I don't do anything... so I will have to keep trying.

The amazing and powerful illustration for this feature is by reader Skye: many thanks!

Cathy says:
Quinn's account is powerful, thought-provoking and painfully honest. It certainly helps me to understand more about anxiety and depression, and hopefully it will help you too. Have YOU ever struggled with mental health issues? COMMENT BELOW to have your say, or to show your support for Quinn.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW...

Inspiring reader Rhianna donated her beautiful long hair to charity… find out how, and why!

Rhianna says:
As I walked into the hairdresser's I didn't feel nervous - I knew I was about to do something good! I had my hair washed, dried and plaited and waited for the cut to begin. All of a sudden my head felt lighter and I knew that my hair had been cut off… I could hear the clicking of my mum's camera as she took pictures. My hair used to reach right down the centre of my back. It took me years to grow and used to take a good hour to wash, dry and style. I had to straighten it, too, to make it look nice, and for school I always tied it up in plaits or a ponytail.

The Little Princess Trust is a charity who help children fighting cancer and who might have lost their hair because of the chemo treatment. Children with other illnesses who have lost their hair are helped also, and the charity create wigs for the children and give them free to help those children feel a bit more confident again and happy about their hair.  The hair to make the wigs is donated, and when i heard about this I knew I would like to help other children by giving my hair to the Little Princess Trust.

I feel quite proud because not only to I have a sleek new shoulder length bob but I have helped someone who is poorly as well. It wasn't difficult, and it will create real happiness for someone else. I would encourage others to do what I did to help children in need and put a smile on their faces!

You can find out more about the charity here: http://www.littleprincesses.org.uk

Cathy says:
Wow… what an amazing thing to do! Well done Rhianna - and yes, anyone else thinking of cutting their long hair should certainly check this out. Have YOU ever done something awesome for charity? Would you? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

THINGS I'D TELL MY THIRTEEN YEAR OLD SELF...

I asked a bunch of successful adults what message they'd have passed on to their thirteen year old selves… this is what they said!

It's going to be tough. You're about to live the worst years of your teenage life, but it will be fine in the end, if you let it go. You're not perfect and you will be wrong sometimes. What you think will last, won't: friendship, family, even love. But change is not necessarily bad. You believe you're worth nothing, but let me tell you, nothing is worth feeling that you don't matter.
Justine, French book blogger

All shall be well - now live like you believe it!
Nick, author

You are a shining light; never let it dim. You have no idea how very strong you are, and how far you will go. You will doubt that, but you'll come to know your true value in time. Life will not always be kind, but you will triumph. Stay soft. Stay hopeful.
Lynn, author

You get to where you are because of who you are.
Tony, indie bookseller

You're not an island. These things that have happened to you have, in some way, happened to others too… don't be angry or scared. I know you're strong - much stronger and wiser than you know. You have experienced much hardship in life so young, but it will make you a stronger person, this I know. Keep your fight going, don't give up. Be the hero you want to be. Life will throw you many more curve balls but soon you will understand that this is what life is about… rising above the waters, not drowning, seeing that white sandy beach, those palm trees, that ever-so blue sky. Keep swimming and fighting. Crying is normal, too - it helps the soul release much tension. Keep on seeing those beautiful colours when you hear music; that is the secret to becoming a great artist.
Rik, picture book illustrator 

Too much of a confidence-boosting pep-talk with knowledge of the future could be dangerous. A slightly older me might then not stick with a miserable relationship for so long… and that COULD mean… no wonderful son! So maybe poor, lonely, bullied, weird thirteen year old Ruth has to remain uncomforted… for the sake of the timeline!
Ruth, musician and mum

Cathy says:
There's something hugely powerful and brave and positive about these messages… especially coming from warm, wonderful and successful adults to their much less confident thirteen year old selves. What message would YOU share with your younger self? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

ANISHA: MY BROKEN DREAM

It's problem page time again on DREAMCATCHER, and reader Anisha has a problem for Coco Tanberry to unravel… will you agree with Coco's solutions?

Anisha says:
I have had a dream ever since I watched the Disney movie, Camp Rock, that I would like to be a singer/ songwriter one day just like Demi Lovato. I absolutely love music, but my dream is not going to happen. My family are very religious and have certain views on what I am allowed or not allowed to do. I do not have the same views as them and I have started to question their beliefs, but no matter how hard I try to convince myself I don't believe it. When I have my headphones in my parents get annoyed because they think I listen to music too much. I would love to be able to play a musical instrument but my parents will not allow it. I don't know what to do.

Coco says:
I could tell you how unfair this is, but that's not going to help… you have a problem and you need practical answers. Firstly, I understand your passion 100% because it is how I feel myself about animals and saving the world. It doesn't matter if others don't get it, that passion is in me and I will never let go of it. So please do hold onto your dream, it will give you determination and keep you strong. How can you get more involved in music? School may be one way. Ask your music teacher if there is any way you can learn an instrument informally, or join a singing group, or get involved in a musical production. Your music teacher could be your greatest ally in this, telling your parents that you are talented and encouraging them to relax their rules a little. Alternatively, ask musical friends if they can help you to learn some guitar chords… they may enjoy helping you to learn, and once you've begun, a lot can be learned from books or online. My family don't have a strong religion, so I can only imagine how hard it must be for you to question the beliefs you have grown up with. All I can say is that there may be a way to follow your religion still, but in a slightly different way to your parents. I don't know of any religion which says that music is forbidden, but many religions do develop ultra-strict rules that have little to do with the actual things set down in their holy books. I say that if god made humans to have talents like singing and music, we should be able to use those talents… to hide them is a waste of our god-given talents. Talk to a trusted guidance teacher at school or perhaps a sympathetic relative and try to get some support on this. Life may be hard now, but you DO have choices, and once you are older you will have more chance to build the kind of life YOU want, rather than follow the rules your parents have set down. I know this is not easy, but stay strong. You are just being true to yourself… I would find it hard to respect any religion that told me that was wrong. Good luck.

Cathy says:
Religious and cultural expectations can be very, very hard to reconcile with 21st century western life. Anisha's parents may not approve of her dream to be a pop star, but to stop her from learning music at all is very harsh… there are many careers in music that could offer her a happy, satisfying future. I agree that talking to a trusted teacher may help here… Anisha needs help and support. Do YOU agree with Coco's advice? Could YOU go against your parents' wishes? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

BEAT THE BLUES!

Readers share their surefire ways to beat the winter blues… try them out when you're feeling fed up!

Kelsie says:
Drawing and painting are my lifelines when I feel sad. Art is my way of expressing myself… I just channel all the emotion into what I'm working on and it helps me to sort of 'step away' from the feelings. I don't feel engulfed by the sadness anymore, and I've created something as well. Interestingly my art teacher really likes some of the things that have really been painful or emotional pieces for me. Art is about feelings, not just techniques!

Lois says:
My surefire way to cheer myself up when I am feeling low is to bake. I gather all the ingredients together and start to feel the calm of getting organised, then follow the recipe… it feels as though you are in control, making something positive to overcome the fed-up feelings. Then at the end of it, you have something sweet and lovely to share.

Cara says:
Running is the one thing that switches off the sad feelings for me. I am not very sporty or competitive, not at all, but at school we have to do cross country running and I noticed that it really lifts my mood and switches off the anxieties running through my mind. My mum runs sometimes too, and I have started going out with her, and I have been asked to go to training after school as well. I think I will, because I have never found anything so good for keeping the stress at bay.

Bel says:
I Skype my best friend. She moved away and she lives in Scotland now, but in a way it doesn't matter - we can both help when the other one is feeling down because we are outside of the everyday ups and downs at school, and we can be impartial and sympathetic for each other and offer better advice than if we still went to the same school. I know she will always be there for me and that means the world.

Jade says:
Loud music, every time. I turn the volume up and zone out, and the music I choose is heavy and I know some people would call it miserable, but I don't care because it works for me.

Zara says:
I am trying to learn to meditate, because I do get very wound up sometimes. I am not very good, but I keep trying, and if my mind wanders and starts to stress I just go back to the start and try again. Even though I am not very good, it does help and I look forward to those ten minutes every day.

Fab artwork by talented reader Chloe - many thanks!

Cathy says:
Some fantastic advice here! What is YOUR best way to beat the blues? COMMENT BELOW to have your say!

Monday, 2 November 2015

CLAIRE: CAN YOU SEE IT?

Reader Claire describes what it is like to be blind… and how it impacts on her life.

Claire says:
I am fifteen, a Year Eleven student, and I have been blind since I was two months old. It started when I had a bug and was given some medication that I was allergic to. The medication was too strong, and made me lose all my sight. I have glaucoma, which means there is an increased amount of pressure in both my eyes. I try to think of sight loss as a game, I am just so used to it that sometimes I forget I am blind.

I do wish I could do better at school when we have to do visual work. An example is when we study reflection and refraction in science - no matter how it is explained, I just don't get it. I sometimes feel I am missing out as I can't join in with the extra curricular activities - I can't really do tennis, netball or badminton. I absolutely love art and drama, but there aren't any clubs for these for my age group.

Recently, sight loss had an extremely negative impact on me. In Year Nine I had to choose my GCSE options and really wanted to do drama and art. I was not allowed to do either, just because I am blind. My school said I cannot do art because the modules include a lot about colour, and my drama teacher said I could do all the parts of the drama course but not the exam. Apparently a big part of the exam involves watching a performance and commenting on it; I wasn't allowed just to comment on the audio side but had to comment on lighting, body language, facial expressions and props. They couldn't allow someone to describe the performance to me. To me, this feels like prejudice and it has really upset me.

My hopes and dreams are to go to college and do all I can to be allowed to study art. I love craft, and it would wonderful to develop my creative skills and produce tactile pieces of art. I dream of a career in art - perhaps one-to-one teaching of tactile craft, youth work or perhaps a career as a collagist or clay sculptor. I know I will have to be more determined than most to achieve my goals, because people have certain assumptions about what I can and cannot do. I want to prove people wrong. I can do these things, but perhaps I may need a little more time and support along the way.

My youth club friends are my best friends, and sometimes they ask if I ever wish I could see things, but I always say that I've been blind such a long time that I'm used to it. It does not bother me - I use my other senses instead. In the summer I did a work experience place which involved me working with blind and partially sighted people and getting them to have a try at crafts, showing them that you could do this without having to see. I could not believe what a difference I made in a week. Many of the people had never done craft before and made excellent progress. I loved every minute, and it showed me what I'd like to do in the future.

Cathy says:
Claire's account has certainly opened my eyes to the idea that art can be much, much more than merely visual. I have a feeling that her determination and enthusiasm will pay off! Have YOU ever been told you cannot do something you love? COMMENT BELOW to have your say...

Sunday, 1 November 2015

LILY: HANG ON TO THE RAINBOWS...

Reader Lily talks about how to hang onto the bright things in life even when everything around you is fading into black and white…

Lily says:
When I look back to my childhood, it feels like everything was perfect then. We were happy - Mum, Dad, me and my brother Jon. We had fun and we loved each other, and I thought it would always be that way. I was wrong.

When I was nine, Dad lost his job and couldn't find another one in the small town where we lived. After almost a year, he found a job in Birmingham, and it was too far to travel so he stayed there in the week and come home at weekends. Then things got worse because he met someone else and he and Mum split up. He told me and Jon he still loved us as much as ever but he was never around so it didn't feel that way. Mum met a man and he moved in with us, and he was quite bossy and angry lots of the time and home wasn't a great place to be anymore.

I suppose all this coincided with me becoming a teenager, but for whatever reason the next few years were not easy. I fell out with my friends and drifted from one group to another; I got into trouble at school and my grades got worse and worse. My brother was going through some stuff too; he was caught shoplifting and Mum had to collect him from the police station - he got cautioned and everything. He's a year younger than me and I realised I had been a pretty rubbish big sister. I'd let him down. My world had gone from full-colour to black and white in the last few years and I hated that. I wanted it to change.

I can't alter what has happened, or bring Dad back, or get rid of Mum's boyfriend. I can't get my old friends back or make up for the time I wasted at school, but I can be a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend. I CAN stop living in the past and try to accept the present instead of fighting it. It is early days, but I try to find something good in every day, whether it's passing a maths test or sharing an ice cream with a friend or watching a DVD with my brother. If there isn't anything good, I try to create something. I am sick of living in a black and white world, and it's up to me to find the rainbows and hang onto them.

All names have been changed. The awesome illustration is by reader Kiki… wow!

Cathy says:
Lily's story is sad, but she is changing things and taking control again… I hope things work out for her. Have YOU ever felt as though your world has lost its colour? How did you find the rainbows again? COMMENT BELOW to have your say.