The Boo Blogs: Day 3 – Otters Don’t Lay Eggs

Mr Geek & I have taken today and the bank holiday off work to spend a bit more pre-GCSE quality time with the kids.

Denial is the order of the day as we ended yesterday sourcing a new boiler & washing hair in bowls of kettle water. So instead of being adults, we headed up to London & went to the zoo!

Despite leaving first thing, we didn’t arrive until nearly midday, which meant that the goats (my favourite gender neutral term for my family, which frankly suits them) were starving. Lunch was duly unpacked & devoured.

Just look at the beautiful table manners we’ve taught them…

Rather than have the tired talk at the end of the day about bankrupting me in the shop, we opted for water bottles all round at the start of the day. This turned out to be a good choice as the weather was incredible! London Zoo has water fountains all over which meant that we could stay hydrated, and if you want to “upgrade” to 500ml of cold filtered water it’s 25p (bargain!).

Mr Geek & I are thoroughly enjoying spending another weekend just chilling together as evidenced by an array of weird selfies as we watched the penguins 🐧 (bangwangs).

After the penguins we did what all self-respecting cat people did and visited the lions. These guys (and gals) are part of an international breeding program and were happily chilling out & washing their toes. Once we’d wandered around the lions, we decided to watch the talk on the work they do with various animals. Unfortunately, the wheelchair accessible area had no shade, so I sent the rest of them the other side of the field to stay cooler. I texted them “Send me a selfie”… And got this:

After seeing cool birds, and meerkats, and more birds, the highlight of my day happened. Out came a serval. Happily following the guy around in order to get a handful of treats. Because she’d been rescued from the illegal pet trade, she was super calm around people and had no issue showing off her moves, although they were quick to warn us that she still thinks like a wild cat and would merrily chew your face if hungry. The way she followed him around chirping for attention & treats reminded me so much of Captain Jack & Leeroy Jenkins.

Oh my word, she was incredible. And this guy has the best job on the planet!

Alongside the tiger (who was resolutely chilling in his wood area) were two very handsome gibbons. But a clear highlight was finding Tad Cooper & singing My Dragon Pal & Me… With hindsight, it might not have been a great idea insinuating that the Komodo dragon could breathe fire with small kids around.

Still, we super believe in you Tad Cooper!

By now, we were pretty shattered, but no trip to London Zoo is ever going to be complete unless I see a sloth. This two toed sloth was not only chilling happily in the trees, but had a tiny two toed sloth baby!!

And with that, I’ll leave you with some final photos from today. Context free – fill in your own backstory!

The Boo Blog – Part 1 : Heading Home

After an awesome fortnight in Northern Ireland, we borrowed our eldest god-daughter (Boo) to come back for an extra holiday.

As a fitting end to our time here it rained all the way to the ferry terminal! So with the car packed with three teenagers & our things, off we went!

These weeks here are a weird reminder of quite how little has changed, despite other massive life events & an extra 600 miles between us. We played games, wandered around National Trust properties, and reinstated Mrs B’s dreadlocks. And as always, I’ve ended the time reigniting our search for a property here (even if this is the wettest place on the planet… I mean, seriously, it’s August!!).

Getting on the ferry was a new one for us as we’ve only ever taken day crossings. It may have been a tiny bit more stressful than expected after being assigned a cabin on a deck that isn’t wheelchair accessible. It was rectified on the boat, but only after being told we should’ve paid extra to select our cabin.

This isn’t going to turn into an accessibility rant…

Once on the boat, hot chocolates were the priority and totally required!

The crossing was super clam and we all got a surprising amount of sleep! After that it was plain sailing all the way back to the house.

Day 1 at the house was a down day as I had to work. Leaving me to hide out in my office, the kids headed off to the park and used their sider senses to locate & purchase ice cream!

After a well deserved rest (is it a rest if you pull 11 hours in the office?!), day 2 is a visit to London Zoo! Watch this space.

Garnier Hair Food – Chicken Soup For My Curls

If you’ve been following my sporadic blogs, you’ll know that I’ve been vaguely following the curly girl method for several years to tame what once was strange wavy frizz into a decent set of loose curls. If you’ve not come across it, the curly girl method (CGM) aims to help people with wavy to curly hair look after their hair by working with it instead of battling it with brushes & straighteners.

If you’re looking for a pure CG “approved” method, I may not be your girl. I’ve been known to suggest some of the social media groups have gone full CG (never go full CG) and become a bit… Erm.. culty. But, I do follow the general principles of the method and they have led to defined curls and my hair growing much faster:

  • Avoid shampoos containing sulphates (they dry out your hair)
  • Avoid conditioners containing silicones (you need sulphates to wash them out)
  • Avoid drying alcohols (probably best to Google the list)

If you’re going full CG, then there’s a whole list of other stuff to fret about. However, one thing that everyone agrees on is conditioner is to curls what a throne made of swords is to Daenerys Targaryen (in that it will make you obsessed, and could lead to your loving partner bumping you off if you read through the ingredients of that gel one more time!). And there is nothing better in the CG world than finding a really good conditioner.

Enter Hair Food.

Hair food claims to be a 3 in 1 product – conditioner, hair mask, & leave in. And it’s not wrong! I’ve now used the banana hair food as all three for several weeks and it’s just as good, if not better than the separate products I’ve been using at double the price individually.

Here’s a good hair day on my previous products:

Curls are happy, but there’s still some frizz. Then after 2 weeks with this as both a leave in & a weekly hair mask, I noticed a real difference.

Definition! I’m really pleased that I can enjoy my curls without breaking the bank 😁

For those who are still in their frantic CGM ingredients checking phase (I promise, this too shall pass & you’ll find your thing), here’s the ingredients:

Right now, Hair Food is in shops for around £7, but there are a few offers where you can pick it up for around £4.

This is not a sponsored post. My hair is indeed my own, yes those are filters (It’s exam season – I need filters!). Suggestions may or may not work for you… These & other disclaimers.

A slip of the brain

I pride myself on holding everything together mentally, but had a moment today that was hard to explain.

One important note – this is not a sympathy post. It’s more an explanation & self-record. I will talk frankly about my condition, but only because we’re geneticallly linked.

I’ve been dabbling with voice acting in audiofiction recently & have had the absolute honour of working with some proper pros (I’ve added links below, because if you haven’t discovered them oooh you’re in for a treat). Now, part of live action roleplay podcasts is that there’s no script & you have to think fast. This ticks so many of my creative boxes and I love it. It’s a world where I’ve mentioned that my body is a bit wonky, but I can generally set my stupid physical self to the side & have fun. So based on this, I mask a good 80% of what’s actually going on, and some people don’t know at all.

So what happened?

I was mid flow with my warlock telepathically interrogating a player when the brain fog descended and I asked a question with complete confidence & they just sort of looked at me…

The words I’d said bore no relation to what I meant to say.

I snapped out of where I was & managed to brush it off and said sort of what I actually meant. And on we went, albeit a bit foggy.

So what actually happened?

It’s something called Transient Aphasia and is similar to the aura stage of a migraine. One minute I’m bright as a button & the next I’m talking absolute crap and am not consciously present for a few moments. It’s a bit like being in a vivid dream where no-one can understand you. It feels like ages, but it’s usually seconds.

It’s embarrassing when you build a persona around being on the ball & intelligent.

Aphasia can be triggered by any number of weird things going on with my body.

I take a drug called gabapentin which was developed initially for epilepsy, but treats the nerve pain caused by frequent dislocations & spinal injury. It does it’s job, but does so by impacting on my brain’s ability to create new synapses. I have to work extra hard to remember things. Helpfully, in addition to jellifyig my once super sharp mind, it can also trigger Broca’s Aphasia (when you lose words but understand others).

This is why poor Mr Geek has become a mind reader of what “The Thing… The THING” might actually mean at any time. Weirdly, I can still explain an adjacency matrix for Djiksta’s shortest path algorithm, but can’t remember the word for Spoon.

Then there’s the main reason for my migraines – cranial instability. I’m still mightily pissed off that my own spine is putting pressure on my brain and causing occasional cf leaks (yes folks, that’s where pressure builds up & my brain juice leaks out of my nose or ear – who says disability isn’t sexy??). So these migraines can take 24 hours to get going & early sings are whoosy heads & Wernicke’s Aphasia (the kind where you talk crap & have no idea you’re doing it).

Treatment for spinal instability in the UK is pretty much non-existent and after long discussions, we’ve agreed that I don’t want surgery anyway. Since being diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos I got the answers I needed and frankly don’t want to be poked & prodded more for a genetic condition that has no cure.

I make a point of not dwelling on it too much, but cringy moment’s)l like this in front of people I really respect, make me so frustrated with myself.

So, on a lighter note here are the podcasts I promised (these are all podbean links & not promotions):

Please Don’t Touch Me – A Response To #JustAskDontGrab

If you follow my personal twitter, you’ll be familiar with my pinned tweet.

You’d think this was just common sense. But you’d be surprised how many tweets like this are screamed into the ether that is twitter.

My own lived experience of this is personal to me. I am aware that I have the inherant privilege that comes from being a middle xlass white woman raised in the south of England. When people touch my chair, they’re often quite taken aback when they are lectured by a stern BBC British accent that occasionally verges on the clipped tones of Mary Poppins.

I have grown accustomed to being leaned over in supermarkets and often pushed out of the way like an abandoned shopping trolley.

My standard response is to put on my brakes & request their name as grabbing a mobility aid without consent is assult (by UK law the act of pushing is assault, if they continue to push without consent this begins to border on kidnap).

Now, the act of putting the brakes on suddenly causes a few issues. Firstly momentum dictates that I’ll likely be tipped out if they shove too hard (I have an active user chair that’s designed to be “tippy” to make it more maneuverable). This is a calculated risk – if I do fall, that’s probably a few dislocations & potential for fractures because I’m what happens after elastagirl retires.

So I had my own way of dealing with what I thought was just an irritation. Then I saw a tweet thread that made me realise quite why I insisted on paying an extra £150 for tiny folding habdles on my chair (it’s a deterrent, but people still grab / shove the back of my chair).

This tweet by @BergBronwyn made me realise that the reason I get so cross with being moved is that I feel vunerable in my chair.

But it wasn’t just the tweet that caused concern, it was the streams of responses from people who saw no issue with taking away someone’s autonomy. I’ve made no effort to hide identities because it’s already in the public domain and this type of behaviour should be called out.

I’m still unable to work out if @chadwhite45 was a troll or just completely ignorant.

And he persisted:

And he certainly wasn’t alone in mocking her – some of these are ableism at its finest:

And since this reached so many people, I was really shocked that many were blissfully unaware of the increased risks when you are disabled.

  • As a disabled woman you’re twice as likely to be a victim of violent assault.
  • As a disabled woman, you’re twice as likely to have been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months
  • 1 in 5 of disabled women reported financial, physical, or sexual abuse from a partner – for both men & women, this statistic was twice as high as non-disabled people.

It’s no wonder that we feel more vunerable. And of course this is fuelled further by the fact that if I’m pushing my chair & you push it suddenly, I run the risk of wrist, elbow, or even shoulder dislocations. Even without EDS, an unexpected push could cause damage to the limbs that we need to be mobile!

It’s also really scary. I can only compare it to walking happily along when a complete stranger picks you up & carries you off. You have no idea why, or whether you’ll be hurt. But we can avoid these with two simple rules:

  1. Ask if we need help
  2. If we say no, then don’t assume you know better

So seeing as I’ve quoted many tweets throughout this post, I’ll end with what I thought was the best response of all.

Six Confused Women

…Sat at their desks and discussed how they “talk to their audience”. One in particular struck a chord with me – I know I need to sell, but I’m also putting myself out there for my audience & sharing a bit of me.

One of the ideas was to use snapchat to share “behind the scenes” peeks at what she does.

So at the risk of showing you how little I currently move from my 9sq ft, here’s my snapchat link – I’m going to give it a shot showing you behind the scenes of an online tutor & writer with the added twist of working for yourself when you’re sick.

See you there!

Paths to Success – Film Maker & Producer

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-swe4p-977af6

In the third of my blog series on paths to success, I’ve been chatting to Jay Shurey who has followed his dream to becoming a film maker and producer.

 

You can read the accompanying blog for this and see the trailer for Jay’s latest film here: https://teachallaboutit.school/2018/08/07/paths-to-success-film-maker-producer/

Protect The Chair! Making Waterproof Wheelchair Covers for Swimming (for under £20!)

Swimming is the best excercise when you have pain everywhere, but swimming in a wheelchair can be a pain in the arse (clearly not in the chair, but using the chaur before & after).

So I made myself some covers.

The towel was an important factor here, and I used a Turkish Beach Towel as it’s smooth cotton on one side so it’s not scratchy once it’s dried, but has terry on the other side to make it absorbant.

My 1st job was to cut the edges from the mattress protector. This had two advantages – firstly, it makes it easier to work with, and secondly it has built in elastic which I could use later instead of buying extra!

I measured my seat cushion by placing the lining & towel under my cushion & cutting a square around it, making sure that I’d left enough to go around the sides plus an extra 2 inches so the finished cover would wrap underneath like a fitted sheet.

I also cut tassels off plus 2″ of towel to make ties for the backrest cover. This was another excellent reason for the Turkish Beach towel – the finshed thing with it’s ties looks like I’m ready to go on holiday instead of hospital!

Once I’d cut same shape of mattress cover that I had for the towel, I lined them both up with the towel faced down & cover faced up* and trimmed any edges that were wonky (remember I was measuring around an oddly shaped Jay cushion with crap hands weilding scissors!).

*this is important as you’ll want them to match up when you sew them together.

Next, I placed my seat cushion back on, making sure that it was in the middle of the fabric & cut out squares from each corner. These went to 1cm away from the cushion.

Now I was ready to place the towel & cover with right sides facing in and sew together – it’s important to remember that you only sew the outside edges and don’t sew the corners! Otherwise you can’t turn it right ride out.

Next, I sewed the elastic that I salvaged from the mattress protector onto the straght edges that I’d just sewn (not the corners).

Once the elastic was in, I turned the fabric right way to create what can only be described as a giant showercap! With the right side of the towel together, I sewed corners together.

I’m sure there’s a neater way to do this as you can totally see the seams on the inside, but it’s a functional cover…

Making the back was a similar process. If you have a square back, then it’s identical albeit with no elastic.

If like me, you have a moulded/ fitted back, you’ll need to cut the shape of your back from the towel & mattress protector (this can be the rough shape plus 2 – 3 inches seam allowance). With a moulded back, it’s useful to add elastic at the too & bottom to help the cover “wrap” over.

Once I’d cut out the cover pieces (before sewing them together), I cut the tassled edges into 4 equal lengths then folded over the cut edges of the ties & sew along the edges to keep them from fraying. I attached the ties to back piece by sewing the top two to the inside of the corners and the bottom two in the middle. I then tucked them in as I sewed the seams.

(For a square back, sew the ties to each corner).

And this is the finished cover:

And from side (any reason to take a photo of my wheels!)

And from back – I’ve tied the straps in diagonals because it keeps the back cover more secure.

I promptly tested how well the cover worked with a day at the local pool & bubbles. Not a drop of water on my cusions even after some git sprayed with the shower (joys of tinypants helping me get showered).

Since then, I’ve used the cover weekly for swimming and we’ll be taking it on holiday. It’s doing exactly what I needed it to do and is as simple as chucking in the washing machine, or just hanging up like a towel to dry (just don’t tumble dry as it has plastic backing!!!).

What’s the one product that you resorted to making for your chair?

* This post contains affiliate links. I don’t recommend products unless I genuinely think they’re worth buying. By clicking / purchasing you are heloing me to maintain this site and my professional site over at www.TeachAllAboutIT.school

What I’m Doing With My “6 weeks off”

I think we can all agree that I’m not great at winding down. So if anything I’ve geared up this summer with some exciting stuff.

I’m rebuilding my website & moving the whole thing to WordPress which is a whole learning curve in itself (you can check out it’s progress at www.TeachAllAboutIT.school).

I’ve been interviewing people for a blog series that has now launched on the site called Paths To Success. It’s been really fun recording a tonne of interviews & developing them as blog / podcast episodes. If you have a career story you’d like featured get in touch!! Seriously – this series is just fascinating & I’d love to hear from you 🙂

I’ve been recording more of the awesome audio series Dark Dice with Fool & Scholar Productions. It’s an absolute honour to be working with these absolute dudes (even if the time difference does mean I end up with Jet Lag without leaving home!). If you haven’t listened to their current stuff, I can’t recommend it enough!

And to top it all off I got a message out of the blue last week from a producer at the BBC asking of I’d write some sections for the Computer Science Bitesize section… Two days & one interview later and I’m writig the whole AQA section! For the flipping BBC!!

We’re only a week in… So next time someone asks what teachers do with their holidays, here’s a list 😉

Paths To Success – Body Language Expert

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-4ae2t-959457

In this first episode of the Paths to Success Season, I’ve been talking to Karen Hickton about her journey through education to owning her own business as a body language consultant to women in business.

You can read the accompanying blog to this podcast from Monday 23rd July at http://www.TeachAllAboutIT/BlogAllAboutIT www.TeachAllAboutIT.uk/BlogAllAboutIT