‘Wine flu’

I know I am a lightweight when it comes to alcohol and that after a drink or two I am a little merry and tipsy, which usually results in me becoming giggly and sometimes flirtatious! I don’t often drink and when I do, it’s often just the one (so I’m definitely a cheap date!). 

However, last weekend I finally had the opportunity to celebrate passing my first year of my counselling training, and I was treated to a bottle of bubbly! The last time I drank champagne was on my 21st birthday, so it’s been a year or two!!!! It’s fair to say it went down very easily! The trouble is I’d not eaten a great deal, so it probably went to my head even more quickly than usual.

It felt really good to finally celebrate, though, as things haven’t been easy and at times it’s been hard to remain positive. For the first time since the first lockdown I went away for a couple of nights to the beach with my daughters and my Mum and had high hopes of us having a wonderful time as a family and the girls enjoying going to a farm and doing lots of things they’ve not had chance to do in over a year. However, unfortunately my youngest daughter had a sickness bug, and so I didn’t see any of the beach and instead spent the two days stuck in the hotel room. I didn’t even make it down for breakfast or get to paddle in the sea. 

Of course my priority was my daughter, but on the first morning after my Mum went out with my eldest daughter, I remember sitting on the bed crying like a baby whilst my youngest daughter slept in between being sick. I admit that I felt sorry for myself. Not only for missing out on making memories as a family but also having paid for a holiday which is a big deal for me. Then I felt bad for feeling sorry for myself when I reminded myself that there were people far worse off than me and that at least my Mum was able to take my eldest daughter out and that we’re getting to spend some quality time together and that at least I had a window with a view. 

I was also grateful for having my mum with me during the night as, although I would have managed, she helped me cope with looking after my daughter who was sick every hour and at one point I ended up having a funny turn which I think was down to pure exhaustion. On the bright side, I didn’t have to wash all the sheets and towels…although I felt bad about the cleaners having to wash them and left the room as best I could. The 48 hours of sickness felt like a lifetime, and it’s horrible feeling so helpless when your child is ill. Fortunately she’s absolutely fine now. 

Both of my girls have had their fair share of bugs since returning to childcare/pre-school, but from what I can gather a lot of children have as it’s the first time most have mixed in months. Then when we went to stay with family who we’d not seen in months my eldest had an ear infection which was horrible and this led to another weekend of sleepless nights and not being able to make the most of our time away. 

I love my children with all my heart, and they are most definitely my world. They give me strength and hope. They make me so incredibly happy every day, and they are without a doubt my greatest achievement. But I don’t think people admit or talk enough about how bloody hard it is to be a parent, let alone a single parent. I’m so lucky that my daughters are so well-behaved and easy going, but that doesn’t necessarily take away from how hard it can be. 

Being a single mum is a 24/7 job with no breaks. People have joked about work being easier, but I know of parents who’ve chosen to go back to work, not for the one by but for a break!! And that’s OK. At work, you get to have adult conversations and talk about things other than CBeebies or hearing the word ‘Mummy’ every second. You get to wear clothes that don’t resemble a decorators outfit from all the food, paint, snot smears etc. 

You have a reason to brush your hair and wear make up and can actually go to the toilet in peace!!! How amazing is that?! It’s a luxury that so many people take for granted! What I’d give to be able to go to the toilet, lock the door and have a few minutes peace! Instead, even if I manage to sneak off I’ll soon hear footsteps followed by ‘Mummy’ and then I have company. I read an article recently about a mum who locks themselves in the bathroom, so they can have a shower in peace, meanwhile their little one is constantly knocking at the door and shouting for them whilst they stand in the shower crying…crying because they feel guilty and also because it’s so incredibly hard. 

No matter how good children are, it is still hard work. There’s no time for yourself, and all other parents seem to want to talk about us children things. You overhear parents talking and it is sooo dull! It’s like a competition over whose child has eaten more vegetables or whose child was toilet trained the quickest… I can’t think of anything worse! I adore my girls, and I’m so proud of them, but I don’t want to sit with a group of strangers talking about that or to feel I have to compete or have my children judged. 

In fact, don’t get me started with potty training! I remember feeling so pressured and judged with my eldest that I was getting stressed about it! The best advice I was given was that they will do it when they are ready, and it’s so true! What I found most interesting is that children have very little control over their life, but that going to the toilet is pretty much one of the only things they can control. Does it really matter how old they are when they are potty-trained? Does it affect their lives? No! I’m 34, and I can’t tell you when I started using the toilet, and quite frankly I don’t care.

Sometimes I crave to feel like me and not just a Mummy, despite how much I love being a full time mummy. To feel like I can wear clothes that aren’t just for playing around in and have a reason to make an effort. Admittedly, if Mastermind did a category on CBeebies I’m certain I’d score highly!! However, I also need a bit of me time, we all do. 

I’ve learned that in order to be the best that I can be for my girls that I also need to think of myself and take care of myself, which is something I still find hard. Especially when it comes to spending money on myself, as I feel it should all go on them (which it pretty much does).

Starting my counselling training has given me something to focus on that is for myself as well as my girls, and as the world returns to some sort of normality I hope to be able to dip my toe back into life outside of being a mum. Like a lot of parents, I have been mainly stuck at home with my children for more than a year, yes there have been so many amazing experiences, but it’s also been tough. 

So, I nursed my ‘wine flu’ by snuggling on the sofa watching the men’s final of Wimbledon whilst telling myself I wouldn’t get hungover again! (Only time will tell!)


Achievements

It has been a very challenging 10 months, what with living through a global pandemic, court cases, getting divorced and the first year of my counselling course amongst other things!! 

I questioned whether to even apply for the counselling course with everything going on, and doubted my ability to get offered a place, let alone anything else. However, after a very intense and demanding interview, I got offered a place. I knew in my heart that my passion lies working with children and young people, and I found out about a local charity that offers counselling and different forms of therapy to young people and their families. I decided to get in touch to see if they offered placements (not expecting anything to come of it) and I got offered an interview. 

I had no idea what to expect, so I couldn’t really prepare for it and I remember feeling a little daunted as I was interviewed by 3 people including the founder and director. However, I loved the fact that her dog was also part of the interview panel, and although I was grilled we also had a giggle, and they made me feel very comfortable. I had no idea what they were looking for or how it went, but then the director told me that they have a secret code to say if they like someone and that they had used it, meaning that they’d like to offer me a place. I remember feeling myself grinning from ear to ear, and I was so happy. Not only had I secured a placement early on but also my dream placement! 

The course itself has been challenging as we spent the first 8 months online, therefore we’d not met anyone on our course, and we didn’t get that interaction that you’d normally get in the classroom or when meeting for a drink as we were in lockdown. We also had to work in triad groups practising our counselling skills online with strangers, bringing real material, and it was scary. I was very lucky that everyone I worked with was very supportive, and I have no doubt that they’ll all go on to be amazing counsellors. Despite the challenges I became comfortable having sessions online and could keep quiet in the background but this all changed when we had to go back into college and I admit I wasn’t looking forward to it. 

However, in the 2 months that we spent in class together, I think has seen the biggest change in me. I’ve certainly come out of my shell more and when I had my end of year tutorial with my tutor she commented on how much she had watched me grow personally and within the group and what a pleasure it had been to watch. It was lovely to hear such comments, on top of which, I also got told that I had passed all my assignments, case study and skills sessions meaning that I can go onto my final year in September and that I can officially start my placement! 

I am very proud of myself and everyone else on the course. We’ve had so much to learn and do in such a short space of time, and without the support of each other, I think we would have found it even harder. It’s hard to believe that in a years time I will have (hopefully) completed the course and be a fully qualified counsellor! 

It’s a shame that when we all went out after our last day in college that we couldn’t really celebrate as we didn’t have our results, but that just means that we’ll have to arrange another night out during the summer!!!

I don’t think we acknowledge our achievements enough, particularly as adults, yet I believe it’s important. We should feel proud and enjoy celebrating our achievements, however big or small. I feel that quite often achievements are taken for granted or just expected, but every achievement requires hard work, effort, strength, courage, resilience…to name a few. 

Sometimes just getting through the day can feel like an achievement and so that should be celebrated too, even if you just acknowledge your achievements and say well done to yourself, it’s worth doing as those positive affirmations are a vital part of our mental health. 

It can be useful to remind ourselves of what we’ve achieved by writing it down, as it’s all too easy to get swept away with life. Before I sat and wrote down everything I’d achieved since September, I didn’t realise, yet seeing it in front of me gave me a sense of pride and belief that I am stronger that I think.

I’ve not had chance to celebrate passing my first year yet, but I intend to! 

I’m very nervous at the idea of starting my placement, yet I’m also incredibly excited to be closer to achieving my dream of being a counsellor.

Finding my voice…

One of my biggest achievements (and challenges) in the past year has to be starting to find my voice. I didn’t think it was possible to have my own thoughts and opinions let alone be able to voice these out loud. It is certainly still a work in progress but if I were to picture myself a year ago, I wouldn’t recognise me.

I didn’t even know what I liked or disliked until not that long ago and I had become petrified of speaking up, instead hoping I wouldn’t be asked anything or would not have to choose anything. So being forced to stay in and not mix during lockdown was fairly comfortable for me as it took all of these kinds of decisions out of my hands. However, when the lockdown restrictions started to ease, I had to start stepping outside of my comfort zone. I remember hoping that everyone on my course would vote to keep our classes online rather than face to face but the majority voted to go back into college. We were given a choice to join remotely but I knew that that would put me at a disadvantage and so I had to take a deep breath and go in and meet people face to face.

It took a while for me to start coming out of my shell and it is very easy to hide behind my girls by using them as an excuse not to socialise e.g., by not going for a drink after classes because I have to get back even though they are already in bed. I think what really broke the ice for me was when I spoke up for the first time and explained why I had been so quiet.

That was definitely the best thing I have done this year and it seems to have given me more confidence and taken some of my barriers down with my fellow course students and in general. I worked up the courage to ask someone if they wanted to meet up for a drink and we had a great time including breaking my pornstar martini virginity! (I didn’t even know what one was!) Since then I have been for drinks after college, spoken to everyone on the course socially, shared a lot about myself and even told them that I have some child-free time in the summer and that it would be good to meet up. I have now been put in charge of arranging a night out – if I have an alcoholic drink or two, they will definitely see my hidden side that they have only heard about so far!!!

I used to lose sleep over the smallest things, I would always put things off, avoid doing things and make things bigger than they were. Now don’t get me wrong, I still do these things sometimes as it is hard to break a habit of a lifetime, but I am getting there, and it feels good.

I have spoken up at college when we have not been provided with information or had things clarified, I have chased things up, made enquiries, taken risks, decided not to worry about things that are out of my control, and I have started to believe in myself rather than always worrying that I am doing something wrong.

I would always hope that people feel able to ask for help yet I am pretty rubbish when it comes to this, and I suppose to some extent see myself as a failure by asking for help. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be 100% strong and independent and that less than that is not good enough. (I do not know where that comes from).

This is probably why when I first escaped from my abusive relationship and money was very tight instead of asking for help, I used to just eat any leftovers from my girls. I didn’t even feel able to go to the local food bank as I knew there were people worse off than myself. However, with my eldest daughter starting school in September and having to buy her school uniform and shoes etc, when I saw a charity offering for people to apply for second-hand uniform, I thought that I would apply. I didn’t expect to hear anything, and I didn’t ask for everything but a few days ago there was a knock at the door and there was a delivery of school uniform items. I was very touched, and it brought a tear to my eye.

Part of me is embarrassed/ashamed to not be able to dash off and buy everything new and order cardigans with the school logo on but equally the items that have been donated are like new and some even have the labels on. I feel lucky to have been given this donation and so the first thing I did was send them a message to let them know how grateful I was.

There are a few things going on this week that may require me to speak up…so I am working up the courage! However, I have faith in myself, after all, why should I be anxious about asking questions or sticking up for myself?!

Dieting Part III…

It has been three months since my last post about dieting and this is when I first signed up to Noom. I was pessimistic about how successful Noom would be and did not expect to lose much (if any) weight by completing their articles about the psychology of weight loss, our relationship with food etc, logging my meals and tracking exercise. I chose to try and lose weight slowly, so it gave me three months to lose 9 pounds. I had been desperate to lose half a stone since the beginning of the year and struggled to get the weight to budge despite watching what I was eating and trying Joe Wicks workouts. I was starting to feel despondent as my weight has fluctuated throughout my life…. however,… drum roll please!!!!

I have achieved my goal of losing half a stone and more!

In fact, I have lost 9 pounds in three months! I am now the slimmest I have ever been, and I am so happy! Yes, I still have a stomach and wobbly bits, but my clothes are falling off me and my confidence has grown in how I look. I no longer think of myself as fat and still like my curves. I know that I need to keep up with everything that Noom has taught me as I know only too well how easy it easy to pile on the weight so this is something that needs to become habitual rather than as a ‘diet’.

I now need to see about getting some new clothes and realise that I am no longer a size 18 or 16 or 14 and that I do not need to wear baggy, shapeless clothes. Part of my frugalness makes it hard for me to buy new clothes and feel that I should wear clothes until they fall apart!

Moving forward, I know that I will need to keep Noom or find an app that will help me keep track of what I eat as well as counting my steps. Otherwise I can see myself not keeping it up, even though I know I could google the calories in what I eat and write it down, it’s just not the same.

I like that Noom tracks your weight, and you can see the graph from the day you start, including the ups and downs, but it is a positive reminder of what you have achieved, even if there have been times when weight has fluctuated or stubbornly remained the same!

Noom also breaks down food into the traffic light categories automatically and shows you what proportion of red, yellow, and green foods you have eaten every day.

For me, the trickiest part of logging calories is when you are eating out, be it at a friends or a restaurant and you don’t know how much something weighs or how many calories are in something, so you end up guessing. I don’t want to kid myself so I always try to overestimate but it can be hard, especially if you are still hungry but daren’t eat anything else in case you go over but in fact you do not know for sure.

What I like best about Noom is that there are no restrictions…. I have managed to lose the weight and still gone out to eat, enjoyed cocktails, pigged out on ice cream, home baking etc. Although obviously not every day! I have tried, when possible, to get into the habit of planning ahead, so if I know that I am going out to eat or fancy that pizza for tea then I try to budget it into my daily calories. I never thought that I would get into the habit and expected to find it tedious but that hasn’t been the case, Noom has made it so easy.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been plain sailing and there have been days when the scales have not been my friend and that can be tough especially if I have felt that I have been really trying to eat healthily and stick to my calories. However, I have learned that my weight does fluctuate for a variety of reasons and so I have tried to almost forget what the scales say and carry on, which has paid off. Not long after I first struggled with the scales, the subject came up on Noom and it recommended that you take a break from weighing yourself every day, which I did.

Noom has really become that annoying parrot on my shoulder but in a positive way so for example I am someone who can find myself reaching for food in an evening regardless of weather I am hungry or not. So, if having a drink or distraction does not work, I find myself automatically turning to Noom to find out if I have any calories left. On most occasions I will have either no calories left or a maximum of 200 calories left, therefore it really makes me think about what I am ‘allowed’ to eat.

I am not too strict with myself otherwise it would not work for me, but I do want to feel good in my own skin so knowing how many calories I have left really makes me think. So now I will choose to eat fruit, have a cup a soup, a boiled egg, or my go to filling ‘treat’ which is sweet potato wedges or my recent discovery… cauliflower nuggets. (Cauliflower florets dipped in low fat mayonnaise and then dipped in a spice mix, breadcrumbs, or both). Who would have thought that I would genuinely enjoy eating these things?! (Particularly before going dairy free my evenings would have consisted of cheese and crackers or chocolate).

I now want to keep the weight off and try to tone up a bit, so this is my next challenge.

I am proud of what I have achieved and hope my new figure will help my confidence to grow.

Strength

This week has been challenging on many levels and I found myself having to reflect on how things impact me. I am someone who cares about others, and I am a softy. I do not want to change that about me, but I am trying to learn how to cope better especially with situations that do not directly impact me. I suppose that is where my bubble comes from, and when things get tough, I will go in my metaphorical bubble to protect myself.

I have allowed myself to feel emotions this week, but I have tried not to let them run away with themselves, instead trying my hardest to distract myself and keep busy.

I found out that someone’s mother had died and so despite feeling as if I couldn’t go and pay my respects in case I ended up crying, I busied myself making homemade lemon scones to take to her and my daughter helped pick some flowers.

Everyone on my college course appeared to be struggling with the presentations that we knew were coming up and I struggled to read all their messages with people saying they had lost all their confidence, that they were close to a break down etc, and I felt helpless. So, I decided to bake everyone some buns as a way of showing that I cared.

I really could have done with the amazing support of my counsellor this week, but she was having some much-needed time off …I know, how dare she?! She had said that I could get in touch if I needed her which means a lot, but I wasn’t going to do that as I didn’t want to disturb her. So, I dug deep and tried to support myself as best I could.

I found myself dealing with a mixture of internal anger, frustration, and sadness due to events of this week, but I did not let this stop me from celebrating my Mums birthday, having a kitchen full of homemade baked goodies, and standing in front of my peers to deliver my presentation.

I am proud of myself for doing my presentation, not only standing in front of everyone and speaking for 10 whole minutes (which as I said to my group, was probably as much as I had spoken up in the entire year – this made them laugh!) but also that I shared very personal information with them about myself. This is a big deal for me as I am normally very reserved, but I felt safe to share and wasn’t afraid of being judged. I was humbled by everyone’s support not only for myself but for everyone else in the group and we learned a lot about one another.

I wouldn’t say that I am now a fan of speaking in front of others, but I know I can do it which is a massive achievement for me.

One thing that I am still struggling with this week is a feeling of sadness due to something that I am not ready to talk about just yet. I think the sadness has also been exacerbated by a feeling of frustration. I learned about a young man who I have known since he was 2 who has been treated unjustly and has reminded me of how much the law is an ass. To top it off I did something I know is almost like a form of self-harm by googling his name and my goodness the tabloids (definitely NOT a fan of tabloids) ripped him to shreds and made him out to be horrendous. I was livid. How dare they?! The damage that those so-called journalists have done to him, his friends and family, is heinous! Reading their articles could have tipped him over the edge…who would be responsible then?! I am appalled that these ‘journalists’ are allowed to write such rubbish, without a care in the world. I do not know how they sleep at night. It makes my blood boil.

It has reaffirmed more than ever, my desire to work with young people and has highlighted again the need for more support when it comes to mental health particularly with young people especially boys/men.

As part of my Mum’s birthday celebrations, we went to the beach and enjoyed a paddle in the North Sea (now that is rare as it is normally rather cold!) and I allowed myself to close my eyes and feel the sun on my face and breathed in the sea air which always makes me feel calmer.

Lockdown part 3…. Week 17

Here we are another week closer to life returning to some sort of normality! I am pleasantly surprised at how well I seem to be adapting to this new life so far, but I am not putting pressure on myself to do things that make me feel uncomfortable. I have booked tickets to take my girls to an indoor mini village play area later this month that they both love! (We’ve not been for nearly a year). I also got excited and decided to book a holiday to France next summer with the hope that things will have calmed down by then.

…..

I am proud of myself for making it to college this week after last weeks wobble, it took a lot of strength and reflecting to get past it as old me would have struggled and probably spat the dummy out (given up).

As I walked back to my car which was parked in a multi-storey carpark, I suddenly found myself thinking there was no one around and even though it was light I was thinking how easy it would have been for someone to be lurking around a corner, so I found myself running up the stairs. I have also been parking as close to the door as possible so that I don’t have to walk across the car park. I would never have thought twice about this until Sarah Everard’s murder, and I found myself feeling a little uneasy but at the same time thinking is this how I’m supposed to feel from now on? Is it not a good idea to be outside on my own? Especially after the tragic events of PCSO Julia James who was murdered earlier this week. An innocent woman walking her dog near her home, brutally bludgeoned to death and the killer remains unknown.

What can we do to protect ourselves? Are we supposed to walk around with a rape alarm, pepper spray? I will never condone anyone who walks around with a gun or knife however I do understand why some people may feel the need to, in order to feel safe. Just like people I know of who now sleep with baseball bats after being broken into.

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Last week I mentioned that I feel as though I am starting to rebel (or maybe I am just discovering my true self after my previous sheltered life) …I still can’t quite believe what I did. Anyone who knows me would know that I am not someone who has ever shown an interest in them let alone someone who would consider getting one, but something came over me. I did not even discuss getting one with anyone or seek approval. Yet here I am, with a purple heart tattoo on my arm!! It may not sound like a big deal, but for me it is.

My friends and family where shocked particularly as I am normally someone who needs permission to do things particularly as drastic as this, however they love it. They are probably wondering what’s next!! Aside from having a new hair style next week I don’t have any other plans (for now!).

I decided to book an appointment to give blood later this year (I have to wait a few months after having my tattoo) for the first time since being pregnant with my eldest daughter. Despite having health anxiety and not liking ‘medical’ environments I have given blood a few times and would like to start again.

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Finally, I wanted to share some happy news that I found. An alternative to plastic that can be composted (and even eaten) has won an award for innovation. Dr Anne Lamp has designed a system to transform agricultural residues into a range of plastics, which in turn can be safely reintegrated into the food supply chain. The process can cut carbon emissions by 87 per cent compared to conventional plastics production – and it promises to compete on price, too.

I’m not sure how I would feel about eating sweet wrappers, but I love the fact that it would be put on the compost heap and no longer polluting the environment. What an inspiring woman Dr Anne Lamp is, I truly hope this takes off!

Post Lockdown…

When I think of life after lockdown, I feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Excitement to do the little things we used to take for granted such as seeing friends and family, hugs, going to shops and cafes, days out…

But also, anxiety…what will life look like? Will I feel comfortable going into shops, restaurants, cinemas, or any crowded places?

I guess everyone will react differently when lockdown ends and the most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and accept that however you are feeling is ok. If you are desperate to hop on the first plane to sunnier climates that’s fine, but if you are someone who wants to take baby steps back into life as we knew it or as close as we are going to get, then that’s also fine.

We have all been through something completely new and unexpected, so all we can do is cope the best we can without judgement and without putting expectations on ourselves.

Maybe you are dreading meeting up with people for fear of what the conversation may entail…maybe you’re worried that people will say that during lockdown they became fluent in a language, learnt how to play an instrument, set up a new business, became an avid painter etc. However, whether you did any of these things or not we have all achieved something – we have all survived lockdown!

I know it’s irrational, but the sense we should be achieving something new, creates anxiety which isn’t helped by social media posts claiming things such as if we haven’t acquired 100,000 YouTube subscribers, learned Mandarin or trained to run a marathon, that we “didn’t lack time, we lacked discipline”.

Yet, when have we ever had a time in our lives as adults when we’ve felt it’s ok to live in pyjamas, have naps, enjoy duvet days, eat takeaway 2 days on the trot or allow ourselves to weep for no reason?!

The world we live in, (particularly in the UK) has become so pressured and fast paced yet one of the few advantages of lockdown is that hopefully some of us have learned that it’s ok to press the pause button and not do anything. I think for a lot of people it’s been a time of reassessing life in terms of careers, hobbies, relationships, self-discovery or re-affirming what’s most important to us.

For anyone who is worried about life post lockdown, take your time, and start small. It could be something as little as finally feeling you have an excuse to wear something other than loungewear, meeting up with a friend for a picnic or going for a drive without worrying if it’s a necessary trip. Try and notice the little things, so for me, I love the sea and whenever life feels overwhelming that’s where I like to go. Visualisation helps but it doesn’t replace being there so the first chance I get that’s where I will be going. I’ll smell the sea air, listen to the crashing waves and the seagulls and feel the sand between my toes. All these things I find very calming and it doesn’t need to be hot and sunny to enjoy it either!

Remember that when all this started, we would never have imagined spending the best part of a year at home, with schools and shops closed, and not being able to visit family or friends. Yet, we’ve already adapted to this major change in our lives. I think we deserve a massive pat on the back for that!

Right now, there are still so many unknowns about when or how lockdown will end. For me, a way I am trying to cope is by not making solid plans yet as I feel this may lead to disappointment. I know that as soon as I can, I will be going to see friends and family and enjoying day trips. I try to take each day as it comes and keep myself busy.

I know my girls have definitely helped me get through this and they are an inspiration. They’ve taken everything on the chin and gone with the flow despite missing friends, family and not being able to go places.

I am surprised at how well I’ve coped (don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my moments), particularly as I suffer with health anxiety and at the start of the pandemic, I was a lot more stressed about it than I am now. I suppose in a way I have learned to live with it in a way that works for me.

……When I picture the end of lockdown, I imagine herds of wildebeest being released into the wild!! I also think of the scene in Love Actually where they filmed everyone greeting loved ones at Heathrow Airport…no doubt there will be lots of hugs, tears, love, kisses and passion!