From a modern flat to a big, old home….

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A recent photo of me with my nephew, taken in my new room in Nursing Care facility where I now live. 

From ‘independence’ to full-time Nursing Care

In the last little while, I’ve moved into residential care. Not a decision I took lightly but living independently was seriously endangering my mental health. Respite was arranged in a hurry as I desperately needed a rest. A few days after my arrival, I was a different person. I’d had more sleep then I’d had in a very long time, in part due to sleeping on a specialist mattress to try to ease some of my pain. I’d had proper meals, and help with the projectile stoma output which had been giving me so much grief at all hours of the day and night. I very quickly made friends, and there are as many activities available as possible given that the home is maintained by a national charity, and as such, relies heavily on volunteers. I did play more than one game of scrabble that first week, which I loved.

At the end of the week, I hadn’t heard if there were any changes to my care plan at home and I knew I couldn’t go back for any length of time and not get in the same mess. I knew deep down there was no money for any more care at home. Long story short, I’m now in residential care full time. I’m much happier, certainly safer and healthier than I was living on my own, latterly.

Disconnect in Well-Connected Times

Of course, as with any move, there will always be teething problems. These have become apparent very quickly. The manager is trying hard to get something done about the sweltering heat, and the problems with water. The care I have is generally absolutely brilliant, especially now people have had time to get used to the idiosyncrasy of doing stoma care on my behalf. I may have startlingly high levels of pain and fatigue, and the medication needed to manage these has it’s own side effects. Staff have begun to recognise the signs, and remind me to rest often. I am slowly developing my own routine in amongst my varying levels of health. I love visitors and thrive on being around people.

There’s just a weeny problem. The house is old, and has been extended. The house has been blamed for the non-existent Wi-Fi in upstairs rooms but that was only part of the problem. Finally, a solution has been suggested and will hopefully be implemented fairly swiftly. It needs to be. After all, personal care and support is paramount, but access to social support, which arguably includes Wi-Fi is nearly as important. I look forward to the day when I can skype when I chose to, including family as well as my therapist. I am almost wholly dependent on social media for keeping in touch with my wonderful friends, who I really miss, as well as church family and blood family. I also rely on Wi-Fi to conduct research for blog posts, and find other sits to write for. Being a girly girl, I make occasional purchases too.

My life has diminished enough without losing touch with people or losing the blog altogether. These are crucial contacts for my own sanity, some of whom offer online support with my chronic illness and disability. Why should any of this have to suffer simply because my circumstances have dramatically changed? It’s time residential care caught up with the times!

Over to You:

Do you think WiFi access is important in today’s world? Why, or why not?

Do you live in supported living, residential care or a nursing home, is Wi-Fi access considered a priority? Should it be?

Do you have any other comments to make. Perhaps you disagree with me. I’d love to hear from you!

Writer in the making….

This is Part 2 of the Weekly Writing challenge from 24 March. The prompt went like this:

Every superhero has an ‘origin’ story of how they came into being. If applied to myself, How did I begin to be a reader, and eventually a writer? 


 

An embarrassing start

I th­­ink I was about seven or eight years old when I attempted to write my first story. It was simple and I tried my hardest to write something good. It was definitely a love story. I remember being quite pleased I’d written something from scratch, all by myself. I must have shown my Mum that I’d written it. My family was there one tea time or something, I think my Grandparents were there too. I remember Mum telling me to go and get my story, and how desperately I wanted to say no, because it was not good enough for people to hear. However, I reluctantly brought it.

I remember my mum saying, “this is the kind of stories she writes… and she proceeded to read it out loud. I distinctly remember wishing I could disappear, acutely embarrassed at what was happening, but worse was to come. Mum finished reading it, and everyone laughed, lots. I remember wishing I had hidden it away and not shown anyone.

I wish I had been able to forget it, work on my vocabulary and practice my writing more. The incident when I was 8 really sucked the confidence out of me. I’ve always allowed myself to dwell on embarrassments. I don’t remember writing stories after that. I did write occasionally when 10 or 11 in a diary with a gold padlock and a polar bear on the front. I only wrote stories in school though not always successfully, the rubbish I wrote when asked to write about a chocolate factory being one example! I did have more success with creative writing at secondary School and University, though I never wrote in my free time.

Nowadays, memoir is usually my favourite style of writing, as I love telling stories of memories I have, people I have met, and events I have been to, as well as a spiritual record of the ways God has used the difficult things, as well as the good things to mould me into the person he wants me to become

Lots of my experiences and everyday life in general differs from the norm because of my ‘being unable to work’, through being both ‘sick and disabled’. A fellow Chrons sufferer started writing and campaigning because she was desperate to have this description recognised. When I read that in a tweet I remember thinking — ‘I am so glad someone’s managed to lobby for that and been successful, as well as relief that I wasn’t alone.

Equally when I write posts and publish the material in my blog, if other people comment that I am I not alone in whatever I write about whether it be discrimination of some kind, difficulties coming to terms with health problems or whatever and share their own experiences, it reassure me I am writing about the right things, and I feel privileged others are sharing their experiences with me.

I’ve also written about news items, popular topics, or a longer comment on things I’ve read on other writers’ blogs. I didn’t think I would enjoy writing about current affairs as much as I do. I had a complex that I wasn’t knowledgeable enough, or enough of a campaigner to write on disability issues. However, some people have seemed to get a lot out of what I have written on the welfare state, especially people who previously did not know a lot about it. There are times I manage to engage others, and get a proper discussion going such as a post I wrote in response to a GP’s comments that the majority of disabled people could work if Stephen Hawking can! This went viral, receiving almost 400 views in one day and causing a lot of debate on social media, both in support, and in criticism of my arguments. (I have always loved debate, but was never confident enough to join the debating society at school, despite my Mum’s encouragement at the time).

My dreams slowly grew as I continued writing. At first, I was happy writing solely for the ‘Big Bible’ website. Then I started my Blog because a discriminatory experience buying glasses in Specsavers got me so fired up I had to write about it! As I wrote, I wanted to write more. Others liked my writing and began to read regularly, ‘liked’ my posts, and my confidence in my writing and in myself increased. This continued for at least a year, however, I found that I became unable to write consistently especially since my health has deteriorated. This has really hurt my confidence, because I very much wanted to write and I would often find that I couldn’t. Obviously the numbers who read have fallen dramatically.

For more than ten years, friends and family members have urged me to write my biography. Blogging has given me confidence to think about doing this because so many read and ‘followed my blog at one point. I started off writing a diary of hospital experiences because I wanted my story to from the ab differundance of other biographies out there. I still haven’t decided what to do because I feel totally torn. Is my story ‘different enough’ to write about on its own, and if so where would I start? And what about the thousands of words I have written so far? Writers, do you have any advice / Suggestions?! As for publishing, who knows, there is much too long a way to go before I need to think about that, surely?

I write for the same reasons I Blog. I wrote something this time last year called ‘Drum Roll Please’. I wrote the following about having a way to express myself. “[T]o have found an outlet which I enjoy, uses my gifts, engages my brain, and connects me with people who have similar interests is a joy.” Slightly clumsy phraseology, I admit, but does largely capture how I feel about writing.

God is using me, and my writing. Writing helps me to explain how my faith makes a difference to the difficult times in my life, of which there are plenty. I hope and pray this will be a witness to those who read it. I decided early on that as much as possible I would keep my blog ‘real’, by writing honestly, including the good, the bad, and the ugly, without dramatising things but also without glossing over the tough stuff.

I am mostly confined to my house, but reaching others from my living room! About a year ago, I wrote the following:

I aim to inform as many people as [I] can about the complexities of life with significant needs, and deep Christian faith and to live as full as life as I can. I am aware of other disabled people I know who live fuller lives than I, even with a more significant physical impairment. Though I would sometimes wish my life was more varied, in general blogging is my way of being ‘out and about’; reaching people I would not otherwise meet and finding a creative outlet, while having a lot of fun at the same time!

By searching and reading I am constantly learning, keeping up to date with some of the changes to policy, practice, disability laws, news, and current affairs. I have to discard the scare stories and keep only the useful information if that makes sense. I keep writing because I want to continue to reach out to others, especially those who live with constant health challenges, as I and many others do, and to encourage people, impaired or not, to learn to keep going when life gets extra hard, because giving up is not worth it in the long-term. I continue to need a way of using my God-given gifts, and of continuing to learn new things in a fast-paced world.

I heartily wish that when I was young, I had persevered, and learned the true discipline of getting up early, pouring a drink, and having time ‘quiet time’ to read my bible and pray, before writing for a few minutes, even. I’d like to write daily, and sometimes manage it for a few days at a time, but don’t keep it up as I then sleep through my alarm, or I can’t keep it up as my health gets in the way.

My favourite time to write is early in the morning, say beginning between five and five-thirty am if I can physically manage to wake up when the alarm goes off, and slide into my wheelchair. I sometimes use prompts such as this one from WordPress, 365 Days to Build a Better Blog (Rowse, 2011) or for girls and women Robin Norgren’s books, including Writer Girl (Norgren, 2013) . I had the privilege of chatting with the lovely Robin for a Skype jam session or two a while back. The ‘days’ aren’t meant to put the pressure on for you to write every day, but simply when you have the time, energy and head-space.

Please do let me know if reading my story of my own clumsy beginnings as a writer have encouraged you to have a go for yourself, be it with scrap paper and pencil, fountain pen and fancy paper, spoken memories on Dictaphone, iPod, or mp3 player to write later, or laptop / iPad and word processor.


To have a go at this challenge for yourself, click on the blue text (or tab to the word “challenge at the bottom of this post and press space if you have a screen reader).

Bibliography

Norgren, R., 2013. Writer Girl: 42 Days of Exercises to Deepen your Faith in Your Ability and Your Purpose for Writing. 1st ed. s.l.:s.n.

Rowse, D., 2011. 365 Days to Build a Better Blog. 2nd ed. s.l.:http://www.problogger.net.

 

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…

Five minute Friday: Ordinary

When I think of Ordinary, some other words come to mind including ‘Normal, Mundane, Boring’. My life is none of those things, and neither am I. Ordinary, or Normal, means ‘able-bodied, capable, independent, an ‘ordinary’ body where almost everything works as it is supposed to. My body is not ordinary, far from it. It is disabled, or differently abled, and I depend on support from others to do basic daily tasks such as washing, dressing and making meals.

Neither is my life ordinary. I am young, and yet, like a retired person, I can no-longer make my own living. I depend on the taxes of others to give me an income so I can have some sort of life. The people I see on a daily basis are not work colleagues, they are carers, nurses, doctors, wheelchair engineers, physio-terrorists ….

Yet in other ways I am ordinary.  I am a young woman with hopes, dreams, fears, struggles and joys. I have a need to feel useful, to contribute so society in whatever way I can and so give my life meaning and purpose. Not only that, but I was created with a meaning and a purpose in mind. Before I was born, every one of my days was written in God’s book. (Psalm 139:4) This week I have done that in a tangible way by blogging, tweeting and emailing, more than I sometimes manage. Ordinarily, one day merges into the other in the sameness of my life. I’d encourage you to read my previous blog post and consider signing the petition I highlight, if you are eligible, to stand up for those who cannot – ordinary people sticking up for those society considers extra-ordinary or different, and yet who are human being too with hopes, dreams and fears. Fears that even the basic lives we have are under threat. This is why we all need to stand together. In standing together, we can do something extra ordinary!

A quick question…

I don’t know whether you have noticed or not, but with  my last post or two I experimented with pagination, that is, splitting posts into pages, hopefully making more manageable chunks to read, and allowing you to click on page 2 when you are ready to read more. However, the link to click on is in a stupid place, and some readers missed it, so I wanted to ask how you found this new feature.  I would be grateful if you would click on your answer in the poll below.

Thanks lovely people!

baking, writing, and banana loaf!!

The daily prompt from the 17/08/10:

Scribble down the first ten words that come to mind.

baking, hoovering, cleaning, ironing. shopping, money, benefits, banana loaf, writing.

Pick three of them as your blog title. Now write!!

My ‘ten words’ are my rather hotch-potch to-do list for Friday, just gone. Not being very together in recent days due to a medication increase, I have to be kind to myself and take things one day at a time, while sleeping lots and trying to handle whatever the day throws at me. It’s fitting that there was a ‘daily prompt’ to match my mood.

I love baking. It is a hobby that lifts my mood, however I am feeling, and there is something delicious to eat at the end of it. It also makes me feel ‘normal’, connects me to the side of the family who bakes, and uses leftovers! What’s not to love?!

On Friday, I made banana loaf, which I have made many times before. It is one of the foods on my ‘snack list’ from my dietician. I adapt it to have half wholemeal, half white flour in and use buttermilk to give it a unique taste. I do follow a recipe to make it though. Today I made soda bread and rock cakes with cranberries instead of raisins, and half a teaspoon of jam in the middle.

I was supposed to do lots of writing to do this weekend, as I think I explained in my previous post. Firstly this blog post, a competition entry for Tearfund’s magazine, a testimony piece, and a blog post for ‘Big Bible’.  Instead, I did lots of sleeping. I wish I could say I felt better for it, but this morning, it took me  a long time to wake up and every part of my body ached. Over the course of the day, it has eased a little, meaning I can get on with the writing, but I may just eat a couple of jammy buns to ease the rest of the aches and pains, and keep me on task!

One of my many skills…

Only writing three times a week now means I have my pick of the ‘daily prompts’. This one is from the 18th, and it goes like this:

What have you been putting off doing? Why?

English: an animated clock
English: an animated clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are all sorts of things I put off doing, and all sorts of reasons for it. On my ‘good’ days I get a few things done, and I have resolved to also do a couple of things on those days which I may have put off. On bad days however, my “shoulda, woulda, coulda” list just gets longer. Things that I think I can put off I do. The trouble is, not being an organised person there is no logical reason things end up on that list, even things that should only take a short time to do. Even on the good days, I never know when I will need a nap. At the moment this is a ‘good’ day, or at least a good morning. I will be exhausted by the afternoon. If I only prioritised things that really needed doing I might be more organised, but I would never get anything done that was just for me. Other days, like yesterday, I fully intended having a writing day, as horse-riding was cancelled. However, I craved company, and sat watching day-time television for several long hours.

This morning, I finally attempted a short story, which I had put off doing, as I genuinely didn’t think my efforts would be any good. The last one I wrote was more than ten years ago in my first year at university. I have other writing projects to attempt. The magazine Tear Times is running a writing competition, and their editor Peter Shaw tweeted me to let me know, and ask if I had seen it, and if I would think about entering. I was very daunted to even begin, and I at this point I have only written a very rough first draft, having forced myself to write something very late one night, having taken several days to think about the brief. I am worrying my entry will not be up to the standard of the others! This is something that plagues me and one of the reasons I put off starting a blog for so long. However, some lovely people have said some lovely things about my writing, so I am beginning to have a little more confidence with it.

I also have a 500-word testimony to write for Christian disability charity Through the Roof which I have put off as the deadline is after the one for ‘Tear Times’. I have a head start on it as I previously wrote a testimony of the same length for Christian Radio Station UCB, which was read out by Mike Rimmer as part of a section called ‘My Story’.

The big project I have really been putting off doing, however is this: For several years, various friends have suggested I write a book. The very idea terrified me. Who would want to read it? Now I have written a blog on and off for a year, and a had a not very subtle push from specific friends, I am beginning to think about it. However, old habits die-hard. I am still tempted to shrink into the background again. Even short blog posts are such an effort most days. However, others who have recently submitted first drafts, or who are currently writing them, have inspired me too. I have yet to decide what style of book it will be. This I do know; that I will write about what I know… and my faith in Jesus will also play a part. Without measures of healing throughout my life, I would not be here. I am on roughly my 7th or 8th chance at life.

While at university, particularly the first time round, my ability to procrastinate was well-known. I was the Queen of Procrastination. To my shame, I admit I submitted some essays late which horrifies me now.A friend once bought me a ‘little book of procrastination!  Were I to start over, I would want to do things completely differently. I would always start each year, or even each semester with that intention, and every semester I would fail spectacularly. Ill health had a part to play in this, as this was round the time hospital admissions began. I was also starting to struggle with my mobility and be in more pain, and it was three years before I sought help from a learning assistant for things like typing, accessing the library and so on. I didn’t think my disability was ‘bad enough’. I did not want to admit to myself how much I was struggling. However, I began to have panic attacks. Eventually I gave in and accepted some help, however, it did not really help with my lack of organisation. Even during my Masters degree I had all the same struggles, despite best intentions to the contrary. Ill health also had a part to play as I got poisoning which put me in isolation in hospital, and exhausted me for months.

However, none of this ever sat easily with me. I read a bible study about procrastination very recently which said Christians have no excuse for putting things off. Even though I know this, it still has a hold over me. Whenever I do manage to complete a ‘To-Do list, or even the majority of one, I do feel a sense of achievement. Failures from the past still haunt me. I think “I managed so and so, but I didn’t manage this, that or the other…”. I have started to use the ‘schedule’ feature on WordPress, so I can write posts one day, but they are not available to you until a couple of days after that.

I hope one day, to  conquer this bad habit of mine, with Jesus help. Until then, however, i will still have my “shoulda woulda, coulda” list. As for when you can expect the book, your guess is as good as mine. You do have my word I will start on the book soon, though just remembered a monthly writing commitment…! Will I ever beat procrastination?!