2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for sat n’ all that, with some surprising results, which you can read for yourself below:

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

One day, one post had over 300 views, and many more on other days. One of my highlights of 2013, for sure. Other highs and lows of 2013, as posted on my FB page today include:

two new hair colours, pierced my nose, turned 30, had the most amazing party with wonderful friends and family, (lots of whom made special efforts to be there) fell deeply in love for the first time but had my heart truly broken, learned all over again what it is to trust God with an unknown future, learned how fantastic some of my fabulous friends are, had an exciting Skype conversation with an establish Christian author who thinks my writing is “fantastic”, learned all sorts about myself… faults too, and made constructive goals for 2014… going forward with my hand in the hand of the One who loved me and gave his life for me…

Here’s to the hope of a new year, going forward in faith with joy and peace, showing God’s love to all who cross our path. Glory be to God’s amazing grace, of which I shall write of in this coming year, with many more topics besides! Thank you for sticking with me, and let’s raise a glass to all that’s to come in 2014!

Fifteen on Friday (2): The Battle Within

About this time last year, I published a short blog post which still makes me smile, about the conflict I have between two different parts of me, the ‘awake’ part, and the ‘sleepy’ part. They often fight each other, leaving me in the middle, feeling dazed, exhausted, and in varying degrees of pain. This affects at least part of every day, if not whole days, maybe whole weeks, and at times, weeks at a time.

This fight has been responsible for many of the absences from writing this year, as even if I am just about awake my ability to think clearly, process information, or form what I want to write or speak is markedly slower and much more frustrating. Countless posts have been begun and lost this way, or even begun in my head before sleep takes over. When I wake, only fragments are left, if I remember what I wanted to write. It’s hard to even begin to explain my frustration or the effect these things have on my life or even all the ways it affects me. Medication, stress, current pain, spasms and disrupted sleep all play a part. A therapist once argued that I don’t have ‘fatigue’ as such, it is merely effects of underlying factors such as pain, and medication side effects coupled with the huge effort it takes me to do anything. I beg to differ, given the devastating effect it can have on my life; but I digress.

Though very rare, sometimes I win the battle. This week I managed to get to church, and stay for the buffet lunch, catching up with several friends I have not managed to communicate with for weeks. Monday was another much-loved hydrotherapy session, and Tuesday, Christmas eve, brought welcome rest. I did have plans, but by this time, pain from all the exertion had taken over and I could battle no longer, being put to bed, and asleep by 8pm. Wednesday, Christmas day, dawned bright, clear and sunny. This special day involved a lift to church and a trip to Social Enterprise, for Christmas dinner, presents and games. In part, I am there because I am on my own, but I am also there as a befriender and listener to those for whom Christmas day brings back untold painful memories and heartache. I had the privilege of listening to/ talking with several people. It is this kind of ‘work’ which makes me feel very alive, and causes me to feel ‘good’ tired, or tired for very good reasons, reasons of my choosing, and not for fatigue. I played Wii games too which I love. I can be competitive and have a fighting spirit in in the extreme; part of what allows me to accomplish anything I do manage, and helps me to persevere through the tired, painful times.

Thursday brought Brunch out with lovely friends, though by this time the fatigue was definately winning. Once home, I had several hour long naps and never really woke up, sleeping brokenly overnight in-between spasms and pain, and causing me to feel apprehensive about another day on the go. This time, to meet up with family for a meal. I loved it, though felt I was much quieter than I can often be. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I resent it because anything I did try to say was an effort and not feeling that well spoilt it a little, though I enjoyed it inspite of everything. Once home, I spent some time with my family before they left early to try to beat the bad weather home. Since then I have drifted in and out of naps, falling into deep dreamless sleep for an hour at a time after supper too. I guess it is good in part as it has allowed me to write this… though frustrating, as I think of all the things outstanding which have been sat these weeks, writing included. In an attempt to focus on the positive things, once I finish writing, I will be very glad I managed it… though I hope for many more times in this coming year in which I, accompanied by Jesus, win this very frustrating of battles.

Care, employment and families – big week for disability

Trust the Government to squish debates on such big issues into the last week in the hopes not as many MP’s will attend / notice / care. As usual, as mentioned by Scope, the numbers of people now not qualifying for care, and therefore having little or no help to prevent a health or care crisis such as a hospitalisation, means the cost to taxpayer escalates despite attempts to save money. Typical Government too, to underestimate how much money good, ‘preventative’ social care costs.

Also, it has not been mentioned here that cuts to disability living allowance -500,000 less people are eligible or will lose out when assessed for it’s replacement. This matters, because the people not eligible for social care might have had the funds to pay for something, at least, but will now have no plan B, surely increasing demand on all fronts. Also, people eligible for social care could previously use their Disability Living Allowance to ‘top-up’ their care, though for many, once assessed for PIP, their benefit amount will be less, if eligible at all, and therefore a further gap in funding exists. The only funding which ‘tops up’ the gap a little is that after several attempts, the Government were unable to close the Independent Living Fund, used to pay for care for those people judged most severely disabled, after the decision was quashed by a last-ditch appeal attempt. However, as this money goes to a relatively small number of people, there is still a massive shortfall. Yet again, the Government has failed to understand how difficult, and complex life can be when you are sick and/or disabled, and just to be seen on a par with your peers requires significant mental and physical energy, and considerable extra costs (phoning ahead, transport, planning for toilet stops, meals, medication… heck, just getting up and dressed even with help, can be beyond me some days!! Those who are able to be on a par with ‘normal people’ in the workplace, in home-life, and comminity life can, and should be given this support — yes, perhaps at quite a big cost. However, to not plough money into it will cost something greater — physical and mental health of sick and/or disabled people will deteriorate costs health and social care systems more in the longterm, and especially where there is also increased pressure and stress from wrong benefit / tribunal decisions too, lives.

New Directions : Introducing ‘Fifteen on Friday’

‘Fifteen on Friday’

I am relieved to be writing again after a hiatus of some weeks. Several times, I have begun posts but been unable to finish them. Often on a Friday I would look up the ‘Five Minute Friday’ prompt, write that, and then share it with others who have written on the same thing. However, I have written here for well over a year now save a couple of longer absences for illness I was unable to work through. Owing to another of these absences, it’s some weeks since I had an immensely helpful Skype chat with writer and blogger Robin Norgren about the direction she thinks this blog should be heading in.

Together, we came up with a plan, We decided, that as the ‘Five minute Friday’ prompts took me fifteen minutes to write the same length of text as other writers wrote in five, we came up with Fifteen on Friday, focusing on some aspect of life with a disability, with Lisa-Jo Baker’s blessing (the creator of ‘five-minute Friday). My first subject is one of my favourite hobbies, and one of my favourite ways to exercise save for horse-riding. It is a mix of swimming and physiotherapy exercises, hence the name hydrotherapy.

A snapshot captured in words: hydrotherapy

The air is still, and close, humid in fact. Those on the side-lines slowly swelter, though those who have luxury of the warm soothing water delight in its caress. The only sounds are of chatter, between those on the side-lines or those in the water, and sometimes between the two. There is one, however, who is perfectly still other than when disturbed by others around her. Still, though by no means emotionless …

Slowly, sore tired muscles begin to relax in the warmth, as joints old before their time are unusually buoyant, helped of course by two cylinder-shaped multi-coloured floats (‘noodles’).  Breaths become deeper, slowly exhaling the stress of the week, and inhaling the still warm air. Joy begins to seep in, from one pore to the other until eventually, all else is forgotten but the gentle rhythm of the water, allowing the person in the middle to bob gentle up and down, unfurling piece by piece. Sometimes, the air is punctuated by laughter.

The bit in the middle is the hard work, kicking, stretching, moving stiff joints, until the last five minutes are free to relax the same way as in the first five, floating gently and calmly… the last final gasp of warmth and joy. All too soon it is over, with just 20 minutes time allowed. Off for all the hassle of changing and the banter of lunch in the café before heading home to chores, errands and the day to day things. Until next time…