New driving fines, and Bungee Jumping?

Is it just me or was the traffic in Coventry moving a little slower and more carefully this morning?  Maybe it was my imagination but there did seem to be a lot fewer ‘D***H***S’ around this morning.

Anyway, I didn’t meet one this morning, not a single one, all the way through Coventry to Pippa’s school near the Ricoh Arena and back.  As I was driving I was listening to my favourite morning radio guys, Ollie and Simon on Touch FM, they were discussing the new fines and whether they would make the roads safer, but all that aside for a moment, I have to say their maths is appalling! Come on guys, I listened with dismay as Simon calculated that 150% of £250 would be around £600!  150% of £250 is £375 guys, time for you both to have a calculator on standby at all times, may help you with the kids quiz as well!

These guys are going to hate me but I know a really good maths tutor!

Of course, I’m pulling your legs lads, but on a more serious note, will the new laws on using a mobile phone whilst driving and now the speeding limit fines actually help?  Simon was arguing that being on your phone doesn’t impact your speed, I have to disagree Simon!  If you’re distracted on your phone, how well can you focus on anything else, including your speed?  I listened to a few people being interviewed and I’ve done a bit of research online, mixed opinions out there it seems.  If you’re a boring git like me and you adhere to the speed limit anyway (I know they’re there for a reason) and I don’t use my mobile phone whilst I’m driving because I know that’s dangerous.  I’m guessing the people who are most pissed off are those that do both and think there’s no great fuss to be had?

So, do either of these things really matter?  I’ve heard one person today claiming that if they want to risk their life it’s their business, so that’s ok?  Errrrrrr……have these people not noticed the other cars on the road, the pedestrians, joggers, children?  If you drive like a dick you’re endangering a lot more than your own life and why do these people care so little about their life?  The media are constantly telling us about cars that have mounted the pavement and killed innocent people quietly going about their own business, very often caused by high-speed in a built up area or lack of attention being paid to their driving because they were distracted.

Many motorway crashes could be avoided if people drove properly, when my kids go out in their cars I’m not worried about their driving, they’re all very good drivers, I worry about the other idiots on the road that can cause disaster at any moment, no matter how sensible they may be.

Risking your own life is your business , please be my guest if Bungee Jumping off a cliff is your thing or base jumping from high buildings (or whatever may turn you on), but, if your antics may affect someone else (and every time you get into your car you’re in charge of a lethal weapon) do the right thing.  Respect other people’s right to live their life however they want to and don’t risk killing someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, wife, husband etc… You are not God, and your driving isn’t as amazing as you think, anything can happen at any moment that can cause you to take action and if you don’t, someone may well be killed.

Do I feel passionately about this?  Yes, I bloody well do!  In all my years of driving I’ve had countless near misses and very rarely of my own making, I respect other people and their right to be safe on the roads, I drive accordingly.

You want to risk your own life?  FINE!  But don’t risk other peoples lives…..

Adults having fun: It’s ok you know?!

Well, that was one heck of a day!  Started at 7am to get Osborn and Pippa to Birmingham Orthopaedic for a 9am Hospital appointment to check the progress with their legs after having had their latest Botox injections in their legs.  All ok there.

Having arrived home I prepared everything for the Easter Challenge which included sorting through 266 assorted chocolate items to be hidden around the field.  We started at midday sharp and having got them all underway I spent an hour on a Skype call doing an interview for an article.  That done I then set about hiding said 266 chocolate treats over 13 acres, no mean task!  A quick trip to Warwick to pick something up whilst they finished off and cleaned and tidied the house and then back for the judging.

It all started with a pile of stuff!

The judging took at least an hour as I had to judge 2 items, they had been asked to make 4 exquisite chocolates fit for Gordon Ramsey and that they would be proud to present to the Queen…no turds on plates!  Bearing in mind I hadn’t seen any of the chocolates being made, I had absolutely no idea who had created what, but a quick glance at the row of ‘exquisite’ chocolates told me immediately that the meaning of the word ‘exquisite’ had pretty much been lost on everyone!


As I wandered along the line of treats I judged each on 10 different criteria including creativity, ingenuity, neatness, taste etc….I was totally ‘chocolated’ out by the end.  Next came the creative challenge, they had either bunny ears or bunny glasses to decorate and a pile of craft stuff with which to do it, I was looking forward to seeing what they’d done with them.

In order to effectively ‘blind judge’, they all wore someone else’s creation so I had no idea who had made what again.  Same judging process, 10 different criteria and I had the results!  But, before revealing the winner, it was off for the egg hunt, my favourite part.  Watching 9 adults rush out of the back door wearing rabbit ears, looking very excited and unbelievably competitive was a an absolute joy.

Wearing the ears for the duration of the hunt was compulsory and ‘grassing up’ anyone caught not wearing them was positively encouraged if it so happened that I missed the offence.  With everyone scattered over 13 acres I couldn’t have eyes on everyone, in fact, for a period of time I couldn’t actually see anyone!  After about an hour, little by little, they started to return to the house brandishing bags of goodies, some much fuller than others.  We counted each persons booty and the winner was Kacie by a pretty large margin, the results of the 2 challenges was somewhat different though!

Having crunched the numbers it turned out that Nikita had won the chocolate challenge with her beautiful and colourful display of well made sweeties.  The winner of the other challenge was Lorie, mainly because she was the only one to turn her ears into another item of clothing…a bra!  She won on the basis of sheer ingenuity and lateral thinking having also made another pair of ears that she could wear as well!

Being an adult doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!

They might be adults now but they still love the opportunity to be creative and have a bit of child-like fun, and why not?  We have to grow older but as long as we behave responsibly when the need arises we should be able to act like big kids when we feel like it as well.

Life is about doing the right things but there’s nothing in the rule book that says you can’t have fun in the process, in fact, the more fun you have, the more you feel like doing what’s right!  Go ahead, make life as funny and silly as you like, just don’t hurt anyone in the process……


The Mad Shanks Residence and the Annual Easter Challenge!

It’s Easter (for those of you that hadn’t noticed!), and Easter in The Mad Shanks Residence means two things, The Annual Easter Challenge and the Easter Hunt!  As our house is in 13 acres, the Easter Hunt is not as simple as some may be, but with seven children and the inevitable extra people who attend it, it can’t help but be anything other than chaos.

4 Years Ago

Over the years the children have painted ‘Easter Sheep’, made Easter Bonnets, made slightly questionable Easter chocolates, Easter bags etc….etc….  This frolic is followed by the egg hunt, at times having to keep a hat on their heads or even with their legs tied together (more for my hilarious benefit than anything else!), searching for chocolates that have been spread out over the entire field, in barns, up trees and anywhere else I can reach!

Midday tomorrow will see the mayhem start and who knows what will happen?  The kids certainly have no idea yet, and nor will they until the clock strikes 12, then it’s against the clock to complete their challenge.  I already know what they have in store of course and I’m definitely looking forward to the end result, I will report back tomorrow with photos!

The Mad Shanks Residence: Stranger Danger!

My children are constantly making new friends everywhere they go, and often bring them home.  What we affectionately call ‘The Mad Shanks Residence’ doesn’t go by that name for no reason, anything can happen here and, more often than not, anything does!

We had a new friend here last night who probably left absolutely bewildered!  He walked through the door to Lorie deciding we should do a group meditation session in her bedroom.  Six of us followed her, including our ‘newbie’, to see that Lorie had already lit some candles and placed them in a circle on the floor.  We all duly took our places in a circle on the floor around the candles and Lorie found some mediation music on her phone.

We all closed our eyes, focused on our breathing and cleared our minds, 30 seconds in and Mirie piped up, “Is that Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?”, she asked.  Everyone sprung back to life and listened, sure enough it was, albeit in a soothing form but Mirie had lost it by this point, she just found it too funny.  Lorie searched for something a little more ‘Zen’ and we started again.

All went well, except, about 10 minutes in I (and it turned out everyone else as well) was starting to focus more on who was going to end it and wondering if I should take the ‘Bull by the horns’ and bring everyone back.  Just as I arrived at the point where it was starting to feel as though everyone was ready, Lorie broke the silence and suggested we all start to slowly come back and wiggle our fingers and toes.

Watching our poor new friend compliantly wiggling his extremities caused me wonder what on earth he could possibly be thinking of us?  How often do you walk into a house with a person you’ve only just met and end up in someone’s bedroom meditating on the floor around a load of candles, all I can say is, thank goodness Lorie decided to bypass the chanting!

Looking for a bizarre night out?  Look no further, we’re waiting for you!

HS2: A Catastrophic White Elephant That’s Trampling All Over Us (And You)

It’s happening…..

Apparently.  The ‘wonderful’ ‘much-needed’ and extremely expensive ‘White Elephant’ known as HS f*****g 2 in The Mad Shanks Residence has been given Royal Assent!

Why, is a question no-one in their correct, sane mind can seem to answer.


Fast or not… we don’t need it! And business people don’t need it either.

Our much-loved and incredible NHS is under so much pressure that it’s at breaking point, waiting times for operations are to increase and the wonderful people who work for the NHS are becoming disillusioned at having to do more with less and less money.

But, £50b+ for a train that goes from one station (nowhere near anywhere) to another, is, apparently, a great way to spend money that should be funding our future generations by overhauling our antiquated education system and keeping the entire nation healthy.


That’s just laughable.

Why am I ranting on about HS2 again?  Because we have yet another meeting looming with them which will no doubt result in the same old song from HS2 about there being nothing they can do and us reiterating, once again, that we’re caught between a rock and hard place and their house survey and valuation has been absolutely useless in moving us any further forward!

Oh yes, and according to them, the noise during construction and operation will be little more than we already experience!

Now if you’ve not been to the middle of the countryside you won’t know the silence we’re fortunate enough to be surrounded by.

We live in the middle of nowhere and can, literally, hear a pin drop outside our house at any time!  The heavy plant machinery and the high speed train that will follow, are again, apparently, silent! Incredible eh?

So much time wasted by so many people trying to fight HS2

We’re not the only people suffering with a monster that we never asked for but that we ‘just have to put up with’ according to the powers that be.

Expensive trips to London having already paid for the ‘privilege’ of petitioning the Government were a complete waste of time and money, time and money I can ill-afford.

The equivalent of weeks and months of my life have been spent researching, fighting and writing lengthy letters and petitions against something that I, and everyone else in our situation, has never asked for, but the onus is on us to present our cases.

To say that I’m pissed off would be putting it very lightly. Seven years of my life have been eaten up, both mentally and physically, by a beast that has had a huge effect on my family’s already fragile, mental health.

Do we have any course for redress?  Can we claim any compensation for distress caused?  Can we get any compensation for our lives being turned upside down by years of construction and then a sodding train running right past our door?

Any compensation for the fact that we’ve lived in absolute peace for 30 years and now that peace (the reason we moved here) will be gone forever?  NO, nothing, not until the train is operational in 20 years time so they can assess the impact it’s had on us.  Absolute bollocks!

HMPH!  Too accurate for my liking!

Ah!….I’m so sorry…..I forgot one critically important thing!!!!  How could I be so dumb?!

I’m forgetting that HS2 is actually a giant ‘gravy train’ for back slapping businessmen and bureaucrats to make shed loads of money from.

The little people like us don’t mean a thing when there are such huge amounts of money to be made, it makes sense now!

Why on earth do I have any expectations that we would be treated like human beings with the right to live the peaceful life we’ve paid a fortune for over the years? Why would we expect people on whom HS2 will have no impact (everyone I’ve met involved in the project to date) to understand the distress and life changing impact it’s having?

Now I’m not anti-progress or anti-business. Not at all. But the journey time from Birmingham to London will be shortened by a whopping 10 whole minutes. The other end isn’t even going to link to Heathrow or the Channel Tunnel as per the original plans. As well as ruining miles of beautiful landscapes including protected wildlife, it’s set to use an ENORMOUS amount of electricity and is horribly environmentally unfriendly.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s only affordable for the super-rich anyway? Us normal folk won’t be hopping on it to travel to London any more quickly. This means it just won’t free up any capacity on normal trains.

There are better ways of improving the rail service. I’m not a rail expert so I don’t profess to know what they are. But the knowledge is out there.

If you want to see EVEN MORE reasons why this is a catastrophe for our country (and not just the Shanks household!) have a look here:

Useless rant over.  HS2 are impervious to everything, the train will go ahead regardless and folks like us will just have to subserviently bow our heads and keep quiet…..or will we?


Listening v Hearing

Is a pond important?

Maybe it’s an age thing, and I don’t mean that in a detrimental way to anyone, but, I’ve found as I grow older that simpler, smaller things make me as happy as the big stuff.  Watching the dogs playing in the garden, or our pond absolutely teeming with life are the things I’ve grown to love, and when I say it’s an age thing, I think it’s just that life’s experiences cause you to think more about what’s really important.

The frogs and fish have been hard at work, the pond is full of baby fish and tadpoles!

Seeing my children laughing and messing around and being so close to each other means the world to me, knowing they’ve grown into beautiful, well-rounded people who care about the world, and the people in it, makes my heart burst.  Watching four of the most wonderful, amazing women in my life blooming as their babies grow inside them is nothing less than magical, and meeting their children when they’re born and watching them grow up will be a huge privilege.

Does all of this mean I’ve lost my big dreams and ambitions?  No, not in the slightest, it just means that every talk I give, every person I’m able to help a little, every time I have the opportunity to spread the word about every person being valued for who they are, without judgement, is another small step closer to getting the acceptance in society that’s so badly needed.  Little things…that add up to big things.

We’re all guilty!

Maybe appreciating the little things adds up to being Mindful?  Maybe it’s about rushing a little less and actually taking in the world around us, the people, nature, sounds and smells?  Actually taking the time to listen to what people have to say instead of eternally thinking about what we want to say and missing most of their side of the conversation.  Listening is a skill and we can learn so much from actually hearing what a person is saying, the difference between ‘listening’ and ‘hearing’.

Is it possible that taking life a millisecond slower than we do could make all the difference, would we learn more and be more mindful of other people’s feelings and how we can learn from them?  Would we all create greater success if we just paid more attention?  I think so…..

My TED Talk:-

Richard Branson, “Screw it, Let’s do it!”

Keep learning

“Screw it, let’s do it!”, a tiny little book written by Richard Branson containing so many true words.  I bought it years ago in Tesco, it was one the ‘Quick Read’ series for only £1, a great investment!  I read it, read it again some months later and then it got lost in the black hole known affectionately as ‘The Mad Shanks Residence’.  Over the past few years I’ve wanted to read it again but haven’t been able to find a copy, feeling determined a couple of days ago, I looked on Amazon and ‘Bingo’, the next day my brand new copy arrived and I was clutching it in my sweaty little mitt!

I’ve just been sitting in the sun reading it (only takes about an hour) but so much wisdom squeezed into such a small book.   He talks candidly of his successes and failures, about his philosophy on life and about being passionate about what you do, he also believes that life should be fun, and I agree with him.

Enjoy what you do and the money will follow

‘My doctor says I should try to have more fun at work.’

His philosophy is that once something you do no longer feels like fun, it’s time to stop or find of way of making it fun again.  Have fun and the money will follow, rather than focusing on making money alone.  I’ve brought my children up to follow their dreams and enjoy life, it’s too short to have it any other way, and thankfully, that’s exactly what they’re doing.  They may never be rich but at least they will spend their lives doing what they love and that’s the most important thing.

Love him or not, no-one can deny that Richard Branson has lived his life to the full and created a lot of great stuff along the way.  He’s not conventional (thank goodness!) and takes well thought through, calculated risks, we could all learn a lot from him and other people like him.  Keeping an open mind and being constantly in learning mode is a valuable thing, and make sure you’re having fun!

My TED Talk:-


When did you conduct your last ‘attitude check’?

Time for an ‘Attitude check’!

I conduct regular ‘attitude checks’ on myself and keep an eye on the children’s as well.  Why?  Because if don’t, my attitude can imperceptibly change without my even realising it!  It gets eroded by everyday c**p, you know the kind of stuff, the boiler has a hissy fit and you have to spend valuable time working out how to get it going again without a qualified engineer.  That diet you’ve been following so diligently is showing zero results (why do I bother?) or the cat flap (third one in as many weeks) has been broken by the dog…..again!

All irritating, all ‘cuss worthy’ and all part of the ‘stuff’ that life incessantly throws at us.  None of it worth having a full-blown breakdown over but annoying enough to chip away at our positive energy if we’re not careful enough to be aware of it.  Hence the regular attitude checks!


My attitude before my ‘attitude check’!

OK, so what does one of my ‘attitude checks’ look like?  Firstly, a quick summary of what hasn’t been going my way and how life changing those things were and are.  Next, what is currently going well?   And lastly, what are the most important things in life and are they on track?  Put it all together, check current attitude to life and adjust accordingly!  BINGO!

Well, no, not bingo, it’s not as simple as that of course.  I mean, it should be, but when is anything as easy as that?  My attitude can take a while to be adjusted, life grinds us down until we feel like a mere morsel of the person we want to be.  We’re told to count our blessings, and of course we should, if we have a roof over our heads, food to feed our families and everyone enjoying good health, we have a lot to be grateful for.  But in my experience, counting my blessings often leaves me just feeling guilty for not being a lot happier and more positive about life in general, and guilt is one of the most horrific, life sapping negatives we can live with.

And I’m good at guilt!  I feel guilty that I haven’t done a good enough job bringing my children up, I feel guilty that I haven’t made good enough use of my abilities, I feel guilty that I’m wasting time, hell, I feel guilty about things that  haven’t even happened yet but might!  Women, in particular, seem to be experts in guilt, it’s as though it’s, kind of, in-built that we should question ourselves constantly, but what’s the cure?

Acceptance is key I think.  Accepting that we can’t turn the clock back and do it again but we can change the here and now and help to steer the future appropriately helps a lot.  Doing an attitude check is a great way of grounding ourselves and getting a handle on the things that really matter, family, health and leading a happy, fulfilled life.  I use ‘sayings’ a lot in my life, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’, ‘One life, live it’, ‘Scars remind us where we’ve been, they don’t have to dictate where we’re going’…. and so on.  But the one I always come back to that sums it all up beautifully is the Serenity Poem, it’s worth not just reading, but really understanding and applying in life, it’s saved my attitude more times than I care to remember!




I was going to write about procrastination!… and how I actually got round to doing it!



Procrastination isn’t necessarily laziness!

Life is relentless, it always has been, right down through the ages.  Life happens second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour…you get the picture!  We plan for the future, reminisce about the past, but we, kind of, tolerate the present?  We’ve all heard (and said!) the words “I can’t wait for….”, wishing our lives away wanting that event in the future to come as quickly as possible.  But if you’re reading this, think about now.  Where are you?  What are you doing?  More importantly maybe, what did you plan to do when you sat down and are you doing it?  Hopefully you’re reading this because you were interested in what I have to say, but maybe, just maybe, reading this is a little bit of procrastination creeping in?

Be honest with yourself, are you putting something off?  One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is ‘Do the worst first’, at least that way the one thing you’re dreading the most is over and done with so it’s not hanging over you like a cloud all day, and maybe even into tomorrow.  I try to follow this philosophy but it’s hard to be disciplined enough to do it, especially if the worst thing you have to do is going to take a lot of time, easier to do the quick things first.

A lot of people advise making a list but I’m not the only person I know who forgets to look at the list, or even remember there is a list in the first place!  Reminders on my phone don’t work too well either, I always seem to be driving or not in a position where I can act on the reminder whenever it pops up.  Anyway, it’s probably something I don’t want to do so the excuse of not being able to act on the reminder probably suits me very well.


A strategy we’re all fond of…..

So why do we put things off?  I’m pretty sure that there are a myriad of reasons, top of the list is probably the fact that our ‘worst first’ is something not very pleasant or slightly confrontational.  Then there’s the stuff that’s just plain boring, and the stuff that is going to take hours to accomplish, and the stuff that we’re not really sure about how to tackle anyway.  Add to that the stuff where the outcome is very important and we’re not sure how it’s going to go and we have a nice big pot of excuses to use to avoid the inevitable!


Or maybe….do it now!

How do I tackle procrastination?  Mostly I don’t!  I’m one of the worst I know for putting things off but one strategy that has helped me recently is sitting down with a coffee and focusing on that one big thing I don’t want to do and working out what the real reason is for me avoiding it. I might think that its lack of time but when I’m really honest with myself I realise it’s actually that I’m finding the task daunting and I’m not too sure how to go about it.  Or, I’m afraid of the outcome but realise that any outcome is better than none because, at least with an answer, I can start to work out what to do next.

This might just work for you too?

Which leads me on to a nice contradiction of myself, I have actually started to have a list, the difference is that next to each thing on the list I’ve written the reason I don’t want to do it (if there is one).  The advantage of this is that as I come to do things I already know what’s stopping me, so rather than looking at the task I can focus on what’s stopping me and start by working on that!  It’s time-consuming, OK, when WILL I have the time and diarise it.  I’m scared of the outcome, what’s the worst that can happen and prepare myself for that.  It’s boring, OK, how important is it anyway?  Tax Return?  I HAVE to do it, however boring it is so let’s get it out of the way!

You get the picture? So far it’s working out pretty well for me, I got up this morning and knocked 4 things off my list straight away that I’ve been putting off for far too long, knowing why I was putting them off helped me to understand that the reason for putting it off wasn’t valid.


I’m so sick of this!

There isn’t one single strategy for tackling procrastination, not every solution works for everyone so if you want to stop putting things off you have to find out what works for you.  All I would say is, if you’re a reluctant procrastinator, don’t procrastinate about finding a plan that works for you personally!

I’ll be here again at some point in the future when I get round to writing another blog!

My TED talk is here:-



The excruciating, deadly silence of domestic abuse in men


Living with domestic abuse is a lonely place for anyone

We need to think….

Two consecutive posts that could be construed as anti-women, I like to live dangerously!  Seriously though, this one needs to be covered as well, and, of course I’m not anti-women, I live with six and am obviously a woman myself.  I just think the scales may be tipping a little bit in the opposite direction and slightly skew whiff, my take on this subject is designed to get us all thinking, not to make a judgement.

I’ve had the good fortune to have met a huge number of fantastic men in my life, friends, nothing more, but great human beings.  I respect men in the same way I respect women, for our differences, and thank goodness we are different from one another, what a boring world it would be without the two sexes and the hilarious misunderstandings we create!

Stereotypes create barriers 

What concerns me is that men are still being brought up to believe that they have to be the stronger sex, crying isn’t ok and that all abuse consists of men abusing women, never the other way round.  I hate to bust everyone’s bubble, but abuse from women towards men is far more common than anyone could possibly believe, sadly I know far too many men who have suffered all types of abuse at the hands of a woman.

What constitutes abuse?

And let’s just take a moment to clarify the word ‘abuse’, it’s not only physical.  My husband abused me, sometimes physically but most of it was emotional and psychological, it’s now called ‘coercive control’ and is listed legally as being a perfectly valid form of abuse, and as bad, (if not worse) than physical abuse.  I wrote a book called ‘Unravelled’ which is mostly about the coercive control I experienced with Paul and goes a long way towards explaining why I had seven (amazing) children.

So, now you know that I’m referring to all types of abuse, let’s look a little further.  I wonder how much of male abuse is caused by our societal beliefs that ALL men must be control freaks and, because they’re stronger, should be shown that they’re NOT the boss in order to keep them in their place.  Some of this may be down to fear created by childhood experiences, and I recognise that our upbringing will shape who we become, but is it ever right to treat any human being with anything less than the utmost respect?  We’ve all got our own baggage to carry around and, as a race, we need to accept that and be less judgemental of people who don’t fit into our idea of ‘normal’.

Men need to speak out but society makes it so hard

The biggest issue though is that men feel far less able to be open about the abuse they are experiencing, remember, they’ve been brought up to be strong, how can they possibly admit that they’re being abused by a woman?  To make matters worse in some ways, they’ve been brought up to never hit a woman or retaliate, not one of the men I know who have experienced physical abuse have ever struck a woman back, they wouldn’t dream of it.  I know men who have been knocked unconscious, have had their face scarred, broken bones, horrific burns…..the list goes on, but they’ve never fought back.

These men need help in the same way that abused women do, but if they’re too afraid to come forward in the first place, we can’t offer them the help they so badly need.  It’s much the same with a lot of people on the autistic spectrum, especially adults, they daren’t admit their difference for fear of discrimination, our society needs a whole new perspective so that people can come forward and be open about their challenges without the risk of being judged.

It’s a huge ‘Catch 22’

Changing people’s perspectives on so many issues really comes down to awareness, so here’s the ‘catch 22’, people need to come forward and be honest about their status but societal attitudes make them feel unable to do that, we need to break the cycle.  What changes first?  The general attitude towards difficult issues or the courage of those affected to come forward and be honest?  I believe the two need to happen in tandem.

If the people experiencing the challenges feel they are unable to stand up and speak for themselves, the rest of us have to open the subjects up and create the awareness they need in order to feel brave enough to admit what’s going on, and therefore, raise awareness even more.  We need to fight for people who feel or are unable to fight for themselves.

Let all of us that are able to, pick up the sword and fight for those who need help so that they may gain the strength to fight for others.  After all ‘A RISING TIDE RAISES ALL SHIPS’, as we build others, so we build ourselves and the good multiplies.  Just common sense really!